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Unufe Makes His Mark

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Unufe Makes His Mark

David Barpal photo.

Against South Africa in the USA 7s in Las Vegas, Maka Unufe broke out two powerful runs for tries, showing long-range pace and tackle-breaking strength.

Unufe goes up high and hurdles a tackler. David Barpal photo.
Maka Unufe
Maka Unufe

Fans know Unufe can do that, but he has not been doing that as much of late. It’s not that he can’t or won’t do those things; it’s that he has taken on some other jobs. He is central to winning the restart, something that was evident on both of today’s matches, a tie against South Africa and a win over Canada. He is a distributor as a center. He often is the guy taking the tap on penalties. He is becoming a leader.

“It’s just the work we do in training,” Unufe told Goff Rugby Report. “We work on the mental side and that’s big for me especially because I need to work on it. They have me work on stuff I kind of gave up on.”

On the field, restarts have become a big part of Unufe’s game. So much so that he set up a key early try against Canada that way.

“During our trainings they most want me to work on the kickoffs, especially jumping and catching it instead of just tapping it back,” explained the former United HS U19 star. “I mostly work on that because once we get the ball in our hands, there’s no stopping us.”

Scoring those tries felt good for Unufe, but he said he’d prefer to work on his defense. For the team overall, it’s about team.

“We just need to stay to our structure and our game plan and don’t go into a one-man thing, and we did that. We did well today, but we’ve got to get over it. Tomorrow is a big day.”

They are mature and humble words from a maturing and humble player. Maka Unufe was, not that long ago, a young kid who thought he had it figured out. When things got tough, he had a hard time handling it. But back with the team and under the guidance of Chris Brown and Mike Friday, he has emerged not only as a dependable player, but perhaps the USA’s best one, and certainly, in his own quiet way, a leader.