The family of Sean Wainui say they are hurting but have thanked the public for the "love, generosity and the beautiful tributes" which they have been sent from around the world.
The rugby star was killed in a car crash in the Bay of Plenty on Monday morning.
The 25-year-old is due to be farewelled at a tangi this Sunday.
The Māori All Blacks and Chiefs star died in a single-vehicle crash on Monday morning at McLaren Falls Park, near Tauranga.
The young father leaves behind wife Paige and children Kawariki and Arahia, with a Givealittle page set up to support the family in Wainui's absence now climbing above $200,000.
A statement on behalf of Wainui's whānau, Paige and her whānau said: "We just want to thank everyone for their love and generosity. The beautiful tributes that have come from those who loved him all across the world means a lot to us all.
"We understand there are many hurting right now and wanting to hear from the whānau, but please respect that we have just lost our baby brother, a son, a husband and a father and our focus right now is healing and laying my brother to rest.
"Thank you all again for respecting the whānau's wishes."
Close whānau and friends of Wainui have applied for exemptions to cross alert level borders to travel to his tangi.
Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed on Thursday that health officials had been approached for travel exemptions by those wanting to pay their respects to Wainui.
Bloomfield said travel exemptions include extended criteria to include wider family members.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said on Thursday that deaths during Covid and the issuing of exemptions is a "truly difficult area".
He said the advice they receive is about minimising risk and funerals are where people find it hard to stay physically distant.
He said there will always be a limit to numbers, but he said the ministry does take cultural needs into account.
"His heart goes out" to Wainui's family at this time, Robertson said.
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