Maitland the survivor of Christchurch horror

New Zealander who lived through earthquake prepares for Twickenham

It will be classified as a shock, no doubt, if Scotland manage to open their Six Nations campaign with a win at Twickenham next Saturday. Not since 1983 have they beaten England in south-west London. But the latest New Zealander lined up to make a debut for the Scots knows all about real earth-shattering experiences. Sean Maitland was at home, making poached eggs for lunch, when the Christchurch earthquake struck on Tuesday 22 February 2011.

"That was a very scary day," the wing-cum-full-back recalls, sitting in his Scotland training kit following a prolonged afternoon workout on the pitch at Scotstoun Stadium in the west end of Glasgow. "Have you ever been through an earthquake? You don't want to."

He adds: "I was with a few of the other Crusaders boys hanging out in our house, basically an old place made of plaster. Then the earthquake hit and it just felt like the whole house was going to fall down on top of us in a split second.

"I was injured at the time – I had a problem with my foot – but when the earthquake hit I just ran. You're supposed to get under a table or something hard but, man, I just shot out the door and I was running like I never had an injury in my life. I was sprinting.

"Our area wasn't hit too badly but my partner worked in the city in an eight-storey building so straight away I was worried about her. I just ran to the city but couldn't get all that far in there.

"It was frightening. I ran past one of the buildings that people died in, seeing bodies on the side of the street. There were people dead in their cars, buildings having fallen on them. It was a rough day, one I'll never forget. I can't explain it. Once you've been through an earthquake of that magnitude you'll be able to understand what I'm trying to say. We got used to it, though. There were so many aftershocks that it sort of became the norm. I was lucky because I didn't lose anybody, but plenty did.''

That day 185 people died as a quake measuring 6.3 on the Richter Scale struck New Zealand's second most populous city. Maitland neglects to say that he spent much of the aftermath searching for casualties and then, in the days that followed, helping clear the rubble.

At the time Maitland was the top try-scorer in the Super 15 and, seven months out from the home World Cup, was still being talked about as an All Black in the making. A star of the "Baby Blacks" New Zealand teams who won the Under-19 and Under-20 World Championships, he picked up his form when the Crusaders hit the road – without a home stadium to play in – bagging two tries as Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Co beat the Natal Sharks 44-28 in a memorable Super 15 try-fest at Twickenham.

When it came to the selection crunch, however, Maitland failed to make the All Black cut. It was then that he started to consider switching allegiance to the land of his grandfather, Stan Maitland, a welder in the Glasgow shipyards who emigrated to New Zealand in the 1970s.

Last autumn he joined Glasgow Warriors, and the smart money is on the 24-year-old making his Scotland debut in the Six Nations opener at Twickenham. "I'm so blessed that I have this opportunity," he says. "I'm proud of my Scottish heritage. My granddad and my dad always reminded me that I was part Scottish and that I should never forget it. My granddad brought over a Scottish pie machine with him. I grew up eating Scottish pies with HP sauce."

Maitland did his growing up in Tokora, a small town just south of Hamilton. "It's a rough place," he says, "but a lot of good rugby players have come out of there: Richard Kahui, Quade Cooper, Keven Mealamu, Isaac Boss."

Cooper, the native Kiwi who has become a feisty Wallaby fly-half and has dabbled in boxing, is Maitland's cousin. "We grew up together in Tokora," Maitland says. "We're pretty close.

"I remember at primary school he used to lose the plot quite easily. He was an angry boy at school. I remember him chasing me around with this little chair in his hand. He was trying to smash me with a chair."

What had the future Kilted Kiwi done to upset the future Boxing Wallaby? "Oh, I was quite cheeky at school," he confesses. "I could just run away, because I was pretty fast." Quade Cooper's cousin still is pretty nifty, as England may well discover.

Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003