New Zealand rugby is in mourning following the death of record-breaking Chiefs back Sean Wainui.
The 25-year-old died at the scene of a single-vehicle accident near Tauranga on Monday morning.
Bay of Plenty police said Wainui’s car left the road and hit a tree at around 7:50am. Two ambulances attended the crash.
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson confirmed Wainui’s passing, saying everyone in the sport shared his teammates “sorrow and their shock”.
Wainui is survived by his wife Paige and his two children, Kawariki and Arahia.
“We offer them our full support at what is the most difficult of times,” Robinson said.
Kiwi-born Wallabies veteran Quade Cooper was among many to share their grief and pay tribute.
“My heart goes out to Sean Wainui’s whanau (family),” he wrote on Twitter.
“Lost for words as it was only a few months ago I was talking to him in the gym in Tauranga. We have lost an incredible human,” he said, adding a broken heart emoji.
Wainui was a well-liked figure in New Zealand who achieved representative honours, playing for the Maori All Blacks.
He set a Super Rugby record in June when he became the first player to score five tries in a single match, a 40-7 romp over the Waratahs at Brookvale Oval in Manly.
Sonny Bill Williams said “he could always feel his mana coming up against him as his opposition”.
Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan said Wainui was popular amongst teammates and rivals.
“He epitomised everything you could possibly ask for in a player,” McMillan said.
“He will be remembered for being a passionate, hard-working, proud Maori who was an exceptional player but more importantly father and husband.”
Farah Palmer, NZ Maori Rugby board chair, said Wainui brought passion and talent to his career.
“We also saw a role model for young Maori, a caring father who was passionate about his culture, his language, and his identity. He will be sorely missed,” she said.
Former Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle said she was “so sad to hear of the passing of Sean Wainui. All of my aroha (love) to his whanau and the Chiefs rugby whanau.”