The Manawatū Turbos’ new South African lock Johan Momsen is enjoying soaking up the rugby culture in New Zealand, somewhere he has always wanted to come.
Momsen, 27, has been playing in the United States Major League Rugby competition for the past four years with Rugby ATL in Atlanta, but joined the Turbos for the NPC this year and has been a real find.
The physical forward has been one of Manawatū’s best in their first two games, throwing himself into everything.
“Coming from South African, seeing everything about New Zealand and the rugby, I just wanted to experience the culture myself,” he said. “So I got stuck in and just submerged myself as much as I could.
“I’ve got amongst it and I’m really loving it, the boys are very welcoming and the town too, it’s very friendly. I’m enjoying it and my favourite part of it is probably the pies.”
Despite being South African, the All Blacks’ traditional rivals, Momsen had always harboured a desire to play in New Zealand.
He said he didn’t know how he would be received coming to play in New Zealand.
“But when I got the opportunity I had to grab it. It’s something as a kid you wish for, you dream of playing professionally in South Africa. I did that … you know how we do things there.
“You know how good the All Blacks and New Zealand rugby are, so to see how they do things and what makes it so good. It has to be more about the culture.”
Momsen is from Paarl, near Cape Town and played three seasons of South African’s provincial competition, the Currie Cup, for the Griquas in Kimberley.
He was splitting his time between South Africa and the United States, but once the seasons stopped aligning, he stayed in the United States.
At Rugby ATL were his Turbos team-mate Te Rangatira Waitokia and former Turbo Ben Strang.
He is heading back there next season but the franchise is relocating to Los Angeles.
Now in New Zealand he is an experienced head in a young Turbos side.
They will look to get their first win this weekend when they head to Christchurch to play Canterbury at 4.35pm on Saturday.
Momsen said it had been a short week of training but they were feeling energised for the Canterbury game and wanted to test themselves against the best side.
There have been some changes to the team for this weekend’s game.
Outside back Nehe Milner-Skudder and young hooker Vernon Bason are being given a rest, prop Sean Paranihi has been left out and wing Taniela Filimone will play for the Evergreens this weekend.
Halfback Luke Campbell is unavailable for family reasons so Jordi Viljoen will start and Irishman John Poland comes onto the bench for his first game.
Beaudein Waaka is over his hip problem and is back at fullback and Drew Wild moves to the wing.
Prop Feleti Sae-Ta’ufo’au dislocated his shoulder in the warmup last week and is likely to need surgery.
Leif Schwencke will start at hooker after a strong performance off the bench last week and Raymond Tuputupu is over his concussion is in the reserves.
Young prop Malakai Hala-Ngatai comes onto the bench for his first game alongside Canadian international Cole Keith, who played against Tonga in Tonga on Tuesday and arrived back in Manawatū on Wednesday.
Auckland loan player Terrell Peita will start at blindside with TK Howden still recovering from concussion.
Manawatū: 15 Beaudein Waaka, 14 Drew Wild, 13 Kyle Brown, 12 Jason Emery, 11 Tima Fainga’anuku, 10 Brett Cameron, 9 Jordi Viljoen; 8 Brayden Iose (captain), 7 Slade McDowall, 6 Terrell Peita, 5 Ofa Tauatevalu, 4 Johan Momsen, 3 Flyn Yates, 2 Leif Schwencke, 1 Joe Gavigan. Reserves: 16 Raymond Tuputupu, 17 Malakai Hala-Ngatai, 18 Cole Keith, 19 Stan van den Hoven, 20 Julian Goerke, 21 John Poland, 22 Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, 23 Te Rangatira Waitokia.