IT WAS THE fend that made everyone sit up.
The flash of fast-twitch power, the left hand planted into Bourgoin fullback Florian Denos’ chest in the blink of an eye, leaving the Frenchman flapping at the red jersey for a split second before he was beaten.
Minutes after coming off the bench for his Thomond Park debut for Munster in October 2006, and having already delivered what would become a trademark rib-tickling hit, PNBHS Old Boy Lifeimi Mafi (1996-2000) was showing he had something different, even in a squad that had reached its holy grail by winning the Heineken Cup the season before.
With those ferocious impacts, Mafi announced his arrival and barely looked back from there, going on to play for Munster 144 times in total and helping them to their second European title in 2008, as well as winning two Celtic League titles in his six years with the province.
Speaking on the phone from New Zealand – where he’s working in his old school, Palmerston North Boys’ High – Mafi says he and his wife, Sarah, enjoyed thinking back over their time in Ireland after the interview request landed in.
The rugby success stands out but the Mafi family remember the people even more.