Super Rugby: Blues recruit Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s transition ‘a tough gig’

Date published: January 27 2022 - Dylan Coetzee

Blues recruit Roger Tuivasa-Sheck fully understands the difficulty of the challenge ahead after switching codes for the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific season.

Head coach Leon MacDonald has seen Tuivasa-Sheck to be best suited at inside centre where the former All Black plans to deploy him. Having last played rugby union in high school 28-year-old Tuivasa-Sheck has a great deal of adaptation to work through, something he is acknowledging head-on.

The former New Zealand Warriors captain’s transition should have been well on the way by now with an entire NPC campaign under the belt, however, the pandemic disrupted that. Tuivasa-Sheck instead partnered up with All Black Caleb Clarke to train in what was an extended pre-season with the blues.

Looking to earn his stripes

The code-hopping star is still waiting to play rugby having last ran out for the Warriors in July and is itching to get out and earn his status as a Blues player. 

“I keep telling myself it’s not until I lace up and run out in the colours it’s going to feel official. At the moment I feel like a rookie and I’m learning with everyone around me,” Tuivasa-Sheck told Stuff.

One of the central challenges of switching codes is to completely understand his role, the 28-year-old said.

“It’s a tough gig because one week I feel, ‘OK, I’m starting to get it’, then the next I’m out of position,” he added. “You’ve got to keep learning as you go. And creating the connections around me. As a midfielder you’ve got to connect with the guys inside and out, and I’ve got to constantly adapt.”

However, that is not the biggest difference according to Tuivasa-Sheck.

“What’s still discombobulating to me is the constant change in pictures,” he explained. “In high school, if someone was in front, OK, you attack that guy. [Now] when you look back up it’s a whole new picture. The level has gone up, and with a lot of changing pictures.”

The ruck is one of the main structural differences between union and league, something that Tuivasa-Sheck will need to be accustomed to.

“When I’m watching from afar, you know there’s a ruck there, but to me it looks like a mess, just boys smashing in,” he said. “But there’s actually some key factors and technique stuff they try to do in there … those are the little things I’m trying to learn.”

The former rugby league star is an experienced campaigner and will not allow expectations to unravel beyond reason.

“I have good people around me as sounding boards. Of course I want to put my best foot forward and tick the boxes from the start. But it’s been a while since I played rugby. There’s stuff I can pick up at training but when it comes to games, it’s a whole new page.”

Despite Tuivasa-Sheck’s obvious leadership abilities and presence in the changing room, he understands the importance of earning his place in the squad and on the field.

“I’m trying to learn as much as I can, but I don’t feel like I’m a Blues player just yet, I want to make it official by getting on the field and earning the boys’ respect first,” he said.

“Just trying to get my role right, to be in the right position to add value to the players around me, and not be a barrier so I’m stopping plays because I’m in the wrong position.

“It’s just head down, go to work, and make myself official – earn the coaches’ respect by getting that jersey to play in a Super game.“