Tight family connection for NZ debutants
June 11, 2005

There was a strong family motivation for two of the six debut All Blacks in last night's 91-0 humbling of Fiji at North Harbour Stadium here.

Four-try hero Sitiveni Sivivatu said he was going to present his mother Koleta Marama with his No 11 jersey after she travelled from Fiji to watch the game.

It was a poignant gesture from the Fijian-born winger, whose father Alekisa died several months ago.

While Sivivatu played down his All Blacks debut record achievement, debut Otago lock James Ryan spoke of his relief and delight at completing an impressive 80 minutes.

Ryan also had family on his mind, waving enthusiastically to mother Monica and stepfather Mike after the fulltime whistle. They had returned from a holiday in Greece early yesterday and had booked a connecting flight from Christchurch to Auckland to see Ryan run out.

"I'm ecstatic and relieved," said Ryan, who noticed the difference from Super 12 rugby despite the one-sided match.

"The expectation is so much higher of your job, that's the major difference," he said.

"Gradually as the game went on I got more confident."

Ryan and debut hooker Derren Witcombe were both in a starting pack that shut Fiji out of the game, helping Sivivatu dash in for two tries in each half.

Substitutes Sosene Anesi (fullback), Sione Lauaki (flanker) and Campbell Johnstone (prop) all came off the bench in the second half and made their mark.

NZPA

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