Meet the German teenager who is making his mark in New Zealand rugby

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Tasman Mako back-row Anton Segner

Date of birth 24 July 2001 Born Frankfurt Position Back-row Club Tasman Mako Country Germany

What sports did you play growing up? 

Like any German kid, football! And a bit of ice hockey.

I started playing rugby at nine, at SC 1880 Frankfurt. I went to an English-speaking school and one of my English mates introduced me to rugby.

What positions have you played? 

Prop, back-row and midfield. I had knock knees and my doctor told me to get surgery when I was 11. Since I was quite obese, my rugby coach, Tim Manawatu, told me I should start taking my training seriously and watching my nutrition because after the surgery I wouldn’t be able to train for six months.

I lost weight and started growing taller, so I moved into the backs for a couple of years and then at 13-14 I moved to the back row.

Any childhood heroes? 

I liked Richie McCaw once I started getting into rugby and now it’s Ardie Savea. Also people like LeBron James and Anthony Joshua.

How did the move to New Zealand come about? 

Through Tim. He went back to New Zealand but we stayed in touch. He introduced me to the head of rugby at Nelson College and I came over in 2017.

It was supposed to be for six months, but I made the first XV and as the season was eight months I stayed.

I went back to Germany to finish my Year 11 schooling, but did the rest of my schooling in New Zealand in 2018 and 2019.

What was it like moving so far from home? 

Tough. I was 15, didn’t know what to expect, barely knew anyone here and I was coming from a big city like Frankfurt to a small town like Nelson. But I made friends straightaway in the boarding house and felt very welcome.

You’ve also played for New Zealand Schools… 

I couldn’t believe it. My family and friends in Germany don’t understand how much the black jersey means to New Zealanders. I was so happy to make the team two years in a row.

What are your strengths? 

I take pride in my physicality – that aspect of the game I enjoy the most. Off the field, my organisation. That’s when the German in me comes out – being on time, organised.

And your goals? 

My personal focus is on being the best athlete I can be. If making the All Blacks or being a great rugby player comes with that…

RW Verdict: He led Nelson College to a UC Championship title in 2019, is playing for Tasman Mako in the Mitre 10 Cup and is on the Crusaders’ radar, training with them in pre-season. As for international honours, his goal is to play for New Zealand.

This article originally appeared in the October 2020 edition of Rugby World magazine.

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