Tahuriorangi hungry for starting spot

By Jamie Wall

It’s been another season of question marks for Chiefs’ halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.  Despite the fact that he’s an incumbent All Black and the Chiefs have more players injured than not, he has still only had one start in the number nine jersey all season.  Unfortunately for him, it was in last weekend’s 47-19 loss to the Hurricanes.

“I hate losing…it was a game that blew out towards the end there but we didn’t nail the opportunities we got given,” he told us at Chiefs’ training in Hamilton today.  In the match he was up against All Black team mate TJ Perenara.  Tahuriorangi heaped praise on the Hurricanes’ skipper.

“It was good to get out and rub shoulders against him again, who I hold respect for.  We just get out there and want to play and get the best out of each other.”

His Chiefs side had some more bad news on the injury front today, with coach Colin Cooper saying co-captain Brodie Retallick is out for another three weeks with a torn ligament in his wrist.  However, he also says Sam Cane, who has been out since October with a serious neck injury, was also a possibility to return at the same time.

Tahuriorangi says that while he’d like to be starting in the halfback spot, Chiefs’ captain Brad Weber has had an iron grip on the position- it’s just a matter of staying patient.

“Obviously I’d like to start, but you just gotta put your ego aside and think 'what’s best for the team?'  That’s motivation for me to try and get out there and start.  But whatever the role is...it’s helping out Brad and giving him the confidence he needs to put on a performance.

“Coming on to win a game is just as much of a challenge as starting.”

He says that he is "not too sure" how the All Black coaching staff have a say in how he is selected for the Chiefs, and admits that the hunger for a starting spot may see a move away from the Chiefs in the future if the situation remains the same.

“Everyone wants a start, I’m still young.  As long as I have an honest conversation with the coaches…but at the moment, I just need to put my ego aside when I’m not selected.  I’m at a stage where I’m just seeing what happens after super rugby…it’s still up in the air at the moment.”

To add to the frustration that Tahuriorangi faces, his All Black status limits his game time regardless, despite being on the bench he still cannot play more than five games in a row, and the week-off rule stipulates that he has to leave the team environment altogether.

Tahuriorangi was the subject of a video that went viral after his test debut against Argentina last year, when members of his whānau performed a haka for him at the end of the game.  He says they are "always there".

“Especially when I’m down, they’re the people I talk to.  When I’m on a buzz, they’re the ones that keep me grounded.  They’ve been with me on my whole journey- my partner, my little boy.  For me it’s just about getting out there and doing it for them.”