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 best suited in the center where the former All Black plans to deploy him. Tuivasa-Sheck, 28, who last played rugby union in high school, needs a lot of adjustment to work through, something he immediately acknowledges.
The transition of the former New Zealand Warriors captain should have been well underway by now with an entire NPC campaign under his belt, but the pandemic disrupted that. Tuivasa-Sheck instead teamed up with All Black Caleb Clarke to train in what was an extended preseason to the blues.
Looking to earn his stripes
The code-hopping star is still waiting to play rugby after last ran for the Warriors in July and is eager to get out and earn his status as a Blues player.
“I keep telling myself it won’t feel official until I lace up and run out of colors. Right now I feel like a rookie and I’m learning with everyone around me,” Tuivasa-Sheck told Stuff.
One of the central challenges in code switching is to fully understand its role, the 28-year-old said.
“It’s a tough gig, because one week I feel like, ‘Okay, I’m starting to get it,’ and the next I’m out of position,” he added. “You have to keep learning along the way. And create the connections around me. As a midfielder you have to connect with the guys inside and out, and I have to constantly adapt.”
That’s not the biggest difference, however, according to Tuivasa-Sheck.
“What still bothers me is the constant change in photos,” he explained. “If there was someone in the front in high school, okay, then you attack that guy. [Now] when you look back, 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 league and competition, something Tuivasa-Sheck has to get used to.
“When I watch from a distance, you know there’s a mess, but to me it looks like a mess, just guys storming in,” he said. “But there’s actually some key factors and technical things that they’re trying to do there… those are the little things I’m trying to learn.”
The former rugby league star is an accomplished campaigner and won’t let expectations fall outside the box.
“I have good people around me as a sounding board. 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 are things I can pick up in training, but when it comes to competitions, it’s a whole new page.”
Despite Tuivasa-Sheck’s clear leadership skills and presence in the dressing room, he understands the importance of earning his place in the squad and on the pitch.
“I’m trying to learn as much as I can, but I don’t feel like I’m a Blues player yet. I want to make it official by being on the pitch and earning the respect of the guys first,” he said. said.
“I’m just trying to play my part well, be in the right position to add value to the players around me, and not be a barrier, so I stop playing because I’m in the wrong position.
“It’s just going down, getting to work and making myself official — earn the respect of the coaches by putting that jersey in a Super game.”