On 26 June 2021 Jacob (Ngāpuhi) played his first cap for the Māori All Blacks against Manu Samoa. He was called into the squad as injury cover for the two-match series.
Originally from the Waikato, Jacob joined the Crusaders Academy in Nelson in 2018 to learn from the best rugby players in the country.
“They gave me a call and said they needed a flanker. I’d never been to Nelson but they also told me there was an opportunity to study sport and recreation at NMIT—which really interested me,” he says.
Since then Jacob has had to balance his rugby commitments with the Crusaders Academy and Tasman Mako, with the demands of his academic studies.
He completed the New Zealand Diploma in Sport, Recreation and Exercise from NMIT and is currently working on his Degree in Sport and Recreation offered by AUT at the Nelson Campus.
“The NMIT whānau is a smaller group and the tutors are awesome; they have encouraged me in my rugby and told me to go for it. Nelson has become my home away from home,” he says.
Jacob is in the gym every day, and at rugby practices throughout the week honing his technical skills, tactical awareness, mental strength and team work.
“Wednesday is my day for study—Sunday is my day off.”
In June 2021 Jacob’s life got even busier when he got a call from Māori All Blacks Head Coach, Clayton McMillan.
“My brother Ollie was named in the team—which was great—then about a week later he sent me a message saying they needed a loose forward and I might hear from the coach. I didn’t know if he was joking but a short while later Clayton called and asked if I would like to join my brother in the squad. I think I said something like, ‘There would be no better feeling’.”
A couple of hours later Jacob was on a plane to Wellington to join the team.
He says he was more excited than nervous during his debut game, which was played in Wellington without an audience during COVID-19 alert level two.
“It didn’t affect the game as everyone knew their job, and I was just happy to be out there tackling my heart out.”
Once he’s finished his degree, Jacob is contemplating a teaching career. Meanwhile, his focus is on taking his rugby as far as he can.
“My dream was always to be an All Black.”
Photo: Jacob's brother, Ollie Norris (left) was also named in the Māori All Blacks squad.