Remembering the champion Wellington Lions 2000 side

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15. Christian Cullen (39) - The champion All Black has maintained a high profile with his television commentary for Sky. He is an avid golfer and maintains a large property portfolio. His last game for Wellington was the 2003 NPC final where he scored two tries against Auckland. He scored 164 tries in 233 first-class games. 

14. Brad Fleming (38) - Ironically, his first-class career started with Canterbury, and he was a foundation Crusader in 1996. The Māori All Black was best known as a sevens player representing the All Blacks Sevens in 35 tournaments and winning a gold medal at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. He had a lengthy career as a PE teacher and sports coordinator at Wakatipu High School and Tauranga Boys’ College before joining Big Buddy as a mentoring manager. Fleming briefly coached the Bay of Plenty women’s team. 

13. Tana Umaga (100) - Won the Kel Tremain Trophy as the best player in the country in 2000. Umaga would go on to become a highly regarded All Black captain and brought up a century of appearances for Wellington in a 37-7 win over Manawatū in 2007. After a period in France, he returned to New Zealand and finished his career with Counties and the Chiefs. He has since transitioned into coaching with the Blues. In 2022 he earned a silver medal as a brown belt at a Jujutsu World Masters competition.

12. Jason O'Halloran (96) - Played all 13 matches in the 2000 season, his long term consistency finally rewarded in 2000 when he played his only All Blacks Test in a 56-19 win against Italy in Rome. His try in the final was his 35th and last for the Lions. For almost two decades he has been a successful coach with Manawatū, Glasgow Warriors, and Suntory Goliath in Japan. 

11. Jonah Lomu (21) - Underwent a kidney transplant in 2004 and then attempted a brave comeback which ended in retirement in 2007. He scored 126 tries in 203 first-class games. Released an autobiography in 2013 and remained in demand everywhere he went. He died unexpectedly on 18 November 2015 after suffering a heart attack associated with his kidney condition. He is buried in Manukau Memorial Gardens beside fellow rugby legends Dylan Mika and Peter Fatialofa.

10. David Howell (61) - Played a record 270 first-class games (passed by Ash Dixon in 2021) without becoming an All Black. Durable and dependable he scored 2,201 first-class points, 615 of those for Wellington including 32 goals from 37 attempts in 2000.  Today he is farming in Whangārei.

9. Jason Spice (63) - Made the All Blacks in 2001 sitting on the bench but not making it onto the field in a Test against Argentina in Buenos Aires. The All Blacks won 24-20 following a last-play Scott Robertson try. Spice has been a long-time teacher at Tauranga Boys’ College. All Black Aidan Ross identified Spice as a key mentor. 



8. Jerry Collins (47) - Was only nineteen when he debuted in 1999 and continued to enhance his growing reputation with eight strong displays in 2000. Collins went on to captain the All Blacks and featured in 85 games for the Hurricanes. Following spells in Wales, France, and Japan he tragically died in a car crash on June 5, 2015, in France aged 34. Porirua Park was renamed Jerry Collins Stadium in 2016.

7. Kupu Vanisi (45) - The Tongan born flanker moved to Dunedin and played 36 games for Otago between 1994 and 1997. In 1998 he shifted to the capital, a year later making the All Blacks in their 22-11 win over New Zealand A in Albany. Vanisi retired in 2003 and resides on the Kapiti Coast where he has worked in construction and enjoys hunting. His wife is a dentist. In 2020 his son Keanu Vanisi was part of the Kings’ High School First XV that beat Otago Boys’ High School at Littlebourne. It was their first victory at the venue since 1999. 

6. Rodney So’oialo (64) - The 2000 season was the first for So’oialo. He played eight games replacing injured All Black Filo Tiatia. He would become one of New Zealand’s premier loose forwards making 101 appearances for the Hurricanes and playing 62 Tests for the All Blacks, including a handful as captain. He coached Petone, Tawa, the Honda Heat in Japan and is now the director of rugby and head coach at Trinity College Kandy, Sri Lanka.

5. Dion Waller (43) - The tough lock from Tūrangi played all 13 matches in 2000. A regular Hurricane, he made the All Blacks in 2001 and appeared in a solitary Test against Argentina. He left New Zealand rugby in 2002 and spent four seasons in Japan with Toyota. Since returning to New Zealand, he has been active in coaching, guiding Tawa to their first Jubilee Cup triumph in 2013 and assisting several Wellington representative sides. He is presently working for the recruitment firm BCITO and is RDO for the Wellington Football Club. 

4. Inoke Afeaki (91) - Hurricane Number One debuted for the Lions in 1993 and would sustain an 18-year career which ended in New Zealand in 2001 and culminated in France in 2011 after spells in Japan and Wales. The builder played 24 Tests for Tonga and played for the Pacific Islands against the All Blacks in 2004. In 2022 he stood for the Wellington City Council in the Paekawakawa/Southern General Ward. 

3. Morné van der Merwe (18) - The prop from Port Elizabeth played for Eastern Province against the All Blacks in 1996. After two seasons in Wellington, he returned to South Africa where he was a Super Rugby player for the Stormers. In 2013 he tragically died of brain cancer aged 39. 

2. Norm Hewitt (31) - A warrior in the New Zealand game Hewitt played 296 first-class games, including the last 15 minutes of the final with a broken arm. In 2005 the All Black won Dancing with Stars. He has been involved with Rangikura School, age-group coaching, business ventures and motivational speaking. 

1: Kevin Yates (19) - Born in Medicine Hat, Canada, he migrated to England. In 1998 he received a six-month ban from the Rugby Football Union after being found guilty of biting London Scottish flanker Simon Fenn’s ear during a domestic cup game for Bath. Yates always protested his innocence. He played two seasons in New Zealand before returning to England. In 2007, aged 34, he broke former Lions wing John Bentley’s mark of nine years and forty-four days between caps when he gained his third England outing against South Africa. He debuted against Argentina in 1997.


16. Mike ‘Tyson’ Edwards (88) - Debuted for Wellington in 1990 serving a decade despite being partially deaf. It’s understood the former Māori All Blacks representative lives in Levin. 

17. Shane Carter (45) - Educated at Nelson College he arrived in Wellington via Manawatū. The solid hooker cracked the Hurricanes and now runs a plumbing business in Oamaru.

18. Semo Sititi (16) - The third most capped Manu Samoa international with 60 Tests lives in Auckland and has been a radio broadcaster and age group coach. His son Wallace Sititi was a member of the New Zealand Under 20s this year. 

19. Milton Ngauamo (26) - The Auckland born lock played for Auckland in their 24-18 win over Wellington in 1999 and then represented the Lions until 2002. Capped 17 times for Tonga he now resides in Brisbane and works in sports recruitment. 

20. Riki Flutey (57) - The Māori All Black represented Wellington for six seasons and then left for England qualifying on residency grounds to represent that country 14 times from 2008 to 2011. In 2009 he toured South Africa with the British and Irish Lions playing in the third test 28-9 victory. He is presently assistant coach of the Highlanders. 

21. Paul Steinmetz (67) - Made the All Blacks in 2002 featuring in a 43-17 win over Wales in Cardiff. Left New Zealand after the 2003 NPC final which Wellington lost to Auckland (29-41) and played six seasons in Ireland for Ulster. For the past decade, he has been a Strategic Account manager for Fuji Xerox. His niece Graze Steinmetz has played for the Black Ferns.

22. Alama Ieremia (65)- Headed to Japan for three seasons after this game and started his long coaching career with Suntory Sungoliath. He returned to the capital and assisted both the Lions and the Hurricanes. In 2014 Manu Samoa appointed Ieremia head coach and he guided them at the 2015 World Cup. In 2018 he was coach of Auckland and helped them beat Canterbury 40-33 in the first extra-time NPC final.

Note: Numbers in brackets denote games for Wellington.