The New South Wales Waratahs will mark Super Rugby’s Multi-Cultural Round by wearing a Canterbury-designed Pasifika jersey that honours the huge contribution that players from the Pacific Islands have made to rugby.
Players from Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia make up 33 per cent of Australian professional rugby players, including 22 per cent of the 2017 Waratahs squad, and the Pasifika jersey has been designed by Canterbury with the help of some of these Waratahs players of Polynesian descent.
The design features a classic blue Waratahs shirt overtaken with a striking tribal art motif that covers the entire top two thirds of the shirt. The designs themselves are more than just a striking image, of course, and each part is said to represent, “the cultural and historical relationships that the players have with their homelands and family”.
One of the most high-profile Waratahs players of Pasifika descent is Wallaby star Israel Folau, and the full-back is clearly pleased with the jersey design.
“When we go out there to play on the field, we carry our culture and that’s a big part of who we are. We just want to make our families and all our families back home proud of us,” Folau said at the launch of the shirt. “I love the designs that have come out of the jersey. It’s obviously something that means a lot to me and the rest of the Polynesian boys in the team.”
Fellow Wallaby Will Skelton echoed Folau’s enthusiasm for the design. “Not only are we representing NSW but with the patterns and the designs that we have on it, it represents my culture, which is Samoa and a lot of other cultures, so it’s a massive honour,” the lock added. “I don’t have tattoos but wearing this jersey makes me feel like I do and I know there are a lot of traditions in the islands about having tattoos and there are certain rituals you have to go through. So just to have this on our jerseys, is a privilege and an honour.”
The Waratahs will wear their Pasifika jersey for their home game against the Jaguares on 8 July 2017, and the match-worn shirts will be auctioned off after the game, with proceeds going to charity.