Ta'avao credits coach Cooper for "career lifeline"

By Jamie Wall

Chiefs and All Black prop Angus Ta’avao will achieve a notable career milestone tomorrow night at Eden Park.  However, the way he got there is a unique story among New Zealand’s professional rugby players.

At the start of last season, Ta'avao was wondering exactly where his career was going- whether he'd have a Super Rugby spot, whether he'd have to shift overseas or whether it might be worth looking at something else to do for a job. 

Now, he’ll be lacing up his boots to run on for his 100th Super Rugby game.

In another unique twist, he’ll be playing against the team he grew up supporting and made his debut for back in 2012.  That was the Blues against the Chiefs in Hamilton.  Tomorrow night he’s up against the Blues for the Chiefs in Auckland.

“Growing up that was the home of rugby for me. [Eden Park] was where I always wanted to play, so it’s been in the back of my mind.  It’s an exciting moment for me and my family, I think I’ve got about 40 coming.” he told Te Ao Māori News at Chiefs training today.

Ta’avao’s career saw him play 49 games for the Blues before shifting to Sydney and playing for the Waratahs in the hope of being picked for the Wallabies.  When that dream ended, he found himself back in New Zealand without a contract- until help came in the form of Taranaki and Chiefs coach Colin Cooper.

“I went through some tough times with selection. [Cooper} has thrown me a couple of lifelines.  Coops was like ‘mate, I’ll do anything to have you down at Taranaki’, he moved some pieces and then followed that with Super Rugby.  He couldn’t guarantee me anything but it’s just worked out so well.  I owe a lot to Colin.”

2018 saw Ta’avao have a break-out season and his form with the Chiefs saw him called up to the All Blacks, where he played three tests.

While Ta’avao is mindful that anything can happen to a professional rugby player, he is enjoying the Chiefs environment and the chance to play.

“The biggest thing I enjoy about rugby is the people,” he says.