Former All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino is backing his old school over the player-poaching controversy hanging over St Kentigern College.
St Kents, winners of three of the last four Auckland 1A rugby titles, have been ostracised by 10 rival schools, who are boycotting matches against the Pakuranga-based school next season, after it admitted recruiting young stars from opposition teams.
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Kaino moved to Auckland from American Samoa with his family when he was a child and played rugby at Papakura High School, before moving to St Kentigern on a scholarship.
He went on to become one of New Zealand best blindside flankers, playing more than 100 games for the Blues and 81 tests for the All Blacks.
Kaino took to Instagram to back his old school, saying it gave not only him, but many others an opportunity to become who they are today.
"People like myself, John Afoa, Joe Rokocoko [and you will know others] would possibly never have achieved what we have without the opportunity presented by St Kentigern College, and that's the same for many young men given opportunities by other schools along the way," his post read.
"If the rules of today don't fit then surely sit around a tables and work them out to retain the integrity of the competition."
Both Afoa and Rokocoko also went onto play for the Blues and the All Blacks. Afoa is currently playing professionally in England, while Rokocoko and Kaino are in France.
Current All Blacks winger Rieko Ioane, who played his high school rugby for Auckland Grammar, said he had no issue with St Kentigern, insisting you have to beat the best to be the best.
Ioane was in the Grammar team that beat St Kentigern in the 2014 Auckland 1A final.
"I've seen it all now. Just because they recruit doesn't mean you pull [the] plug. Don't run from the competition.
"St Kents makes first XV competition harder, but it makes it better when you beat them."
St Kentigern head David Hodge was adamant his school had not broken any rules.
"College Sport has a clear set of bylaws that regulate the 1A rugby competition," he said. "These bylaws include strict conditions on the recruitment of players.
"St Kentigern College totally respects and accepts these bylaws, and has, at all times, acted in accordance with them.
"We believe the schools involved in this action have acted out of self-interest and completely independently of College Sport.
"They are acting in contempt of the guidelines and bylaws set down by College Sport, both for the competition and in the manner in which any disputes between schools should be handled."