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Daniel and Jacob Saifiti.

In the latest of a series on the breakout stars of the NRL leading into the finals, Margie McDonald provides a behind the scenes look and twin brothers Jacob and Daniel Saifiti.

 

Chicken Schnitzel with Diane sauce ... that's the Australian side of Jacob Saifiti.

It's the favourite fare for himself and twin Daniel - never any arguments there.

But Jacob's Fijian side comes to the fore a little more when he visits his Nan on the central coast.

"Her chicken curries are awesome."

Of course when in Fiji, Jacob salivates for fresh coconut water.

"Nothing beats it ... nothing."

The Newcastle Knights twins do a lot together each day. They even play in the same position on weekends.

And when Daniel missed seven games this year due to a knee injury, Jacob moved from the bench into his brother's front row spot alongside David Klemmer.

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"I can tell them apart - they have a slightly different body-shape and head," he told NRL.com, before bursting into laughter trying to explain that last comment.

Knights assistant coach Dave Furner has had experience with identical twins having worked with Tom and George Burgess at the Rabbitohs.

"Jacob has got the mullet now, thank goodness," Furner said. "At first it was hard but then I noticed Jacob had a little scar on his right cheek so that helped me."

Jacob carries a few other scars but those are internal.

A fight outside a hotel in December 2018 left him with a broken leg and a court date. He was cleared of all charges but he feared he'd stuffed up his NRL career.

Knights and NSW duo Daniel Saifiti and David Klemmer.
Knights and NSW duo Daniel Saifiti and David Klemmer.

He'd already wrecked his 2019 pre-season because of the injury. As it turned out he only played a half-dozen games that year.

"At the time I was praying and hoping I'd get another chance," Saifiti said.

"I just didn't want to be one of those blokes going to the pub and saying 'Yeah, I could have been this or that in footy'.

"So I made sure I ripped in every day in this pre-season to make it hard for the coaches to leave me out.

"This is my fifth year at the club and team camaraderie is just so good. I actually look forward to going to training every day."

Saifiti has played all 19 games so far in 2020 – including those seven at starting prop.

"It's a credit to Jacob that he had stuff happen off the field and he got hurt but he made his way back," Klemmer said.

"He's worked really hard to give himself a chance this year of playing such consistent football. He's nailed that already, but he's still developing his game.

"We love having him in this playing group. The club backed him as well so he never diminished in our eyes.

Get to know the Saifiti twins

"It wasn't ideal – we all make mistakes. But he knew he had to repay a few people as well as keep that faith in himself."

Klemmer has partnered Daniel in the NSW Origin front row. He thinks Jacob wouldn't look out of place there either – so does Furner who is a former Kangaroos assistant coach.

"When D-Saf got a call-up to Origin that was motivation right there for J-Saf to work hard. They really push each other and protect each other.

"From working with both the Saf boys what I've found is the deep respect they give people around them. That makes them a pleasure to coach."

And that starts between the brothers themselves. They are best friends. They look out for each other. They will be playing their first NRL finals series together.

They both scored a try in last week's 42-18 demolition of the Dragons – it was the first time they'd each scored in the same game, so it was some celebration in the sheds.              

In fact, the only competition between the pair appears to be at birth. So who came out first on May 1, 1996?

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"Daniel did – by default. Mum was planning to have a natural birth and I was due to come out first. But in the last ultrasound something wasn't quite right with Daniel's heart.

"So they had to do an emergency caesarean and get Daniel out. So he got to go first."

Instead of feeling a tinge of jealousy about Daniel's Origin call-up, Jacob threw a party.

"I wouldn't change anything. I get that question a lot on whether it's weird or different having someone who looks exactly like you near you every day.

"It’s like me asking them 'Is it weird not having a twin?' It's the only thing I've known and doing things together is just so good."

The bond meant that Daniel was uppermost in Jacob's mind in July this year as he entered talks with the Knights about extending. He is now staying on until 2022 – the same year Daniel's contract is up.

"I didn't personally talk to Daniel about it but he was one of the main reasons I re-signed. I wanted to play with him still.

The Incomparables

"I am a realist and that while the best-case scenario is that we both stay in Newcastle our whole careers, I know it doesn't always work out like that.

"So when I was re-signing a big consideration was him. I didn't want to think about this year potentially being my last year with him."

No surprise that Jacob can't remember ever playing against Daniel – not even through juniors.

"I tackle him a lot in training. But as for playing against him – never done it. Although I think we had an opposed game in a rep team once," he said.

"I've never thought too much because I don't really want it to happen – that would be weird."