Blues coach Leon MacDonald feels that despite not playing rugby union, code-hopping recruit Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has undergone an accelerated transition to be ready for the new season.
Following the announcement of his 38-man squad for the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific tournament on Monday, MacDonald discussed Tuivasa-Sheck’s troublesome build-up but did confirm that the star signing had surprised the camp with his ability to shift between codes effectively.
Set to feature at 12
Tuivasa-Sheck built his reputation playing full-back for the Warriors in the NRL but believes inside centre to be the most suitable position for him in rugby union as he looks to break into the All Blacks fold. The Blues and All Blacks coaches agree with him on that.
MacDonald had initially planned for the 28-year-old to begin his transition on the wing – a position he occupied when he last played the 15-a-side code back in 2011 – for Auckland in the New Zealand’s National Provincial Championship and then to move him into the midfield with the Blues.
However, Covid-19 complications resulting in a subsequent lockdown proved a curveball preventing Tuivasa-Sheck from taking part in Auckland’s season which lasted for only two matches.
“I expect him to be ready to go,” MacDonald told Stuff when asked about Tuivasa-Sheck. “In his mind he’s definitely ready to go in Round One. It’s about trying to pull him back instead of push him forward. He’s pretty determined and excited.
“If you speak to any of the players and coaches, we’re blown away by how quickly he has taken to the game. It’s like he never left it. His detail and preparation is really impressive and his skillset is right up there. We thought it might take him a while with the different skillets, but he’s been working really hard at that.
“Like everyone he’ll be trying to put his hand up and push for that game one starting spot.”
And it would likely be in that number 12 position, MacDonald confirmed.
“The big-picture plan was to start him in the outsides with Auckland and progress him into midfield for us… we’ve missed that through Covid. But the outside backs was easy for him, and didn’t take him long to adjust. We feel he’s ticked that box. He did full-contact [training] with Auckland and looked great on the wing,” he added.
“So we’ve said let’s narrow his focus now and concentrate on midfield for the next while, knowing if he does become an outside back for whatever reason that transition is halfway done for him.”