Rugby

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck makes surprise switch for Auckland in NPC

October 1, 2022 12:23 pm

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in action for Auckland against Taranaki. [Source: Photosport via nzherald]

A shift to the right wing for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck served as little more than a surprise for viewers in Auckland’s 38-24 win over Taranaki on Saturday, with atrocious conditions dictating the game.

Named earlier in the week in the midfield, Tuivasa-Sheck had a late positional switch, with Bryce Heem starting at second five-eighth alongside AJ Lam at centre.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB’s Elliott Smith, Auckland assistant coach Craig McGrath said it was a decision made by the team and insisted they had not been asked to move Tuivasa-Sheck by the All Blacks coaching staff.

Article continues after advertisement

“I spoke to Roger on Monday about the possibility of playing on the wing, particularly because we’ve got some quality players in our midfield already,” he said.

The late backline shift was only a sign of things to come for the Auckland side however. Within the opening 32 minutes, the side had seen Heem, left wing Salesi Rayasi and loose forward Adrian Choat all leave the field with suspected knee injuries, forcing Auckland to go to their bench early and often.

Plenty were curious to see how Tuivasa-Sheck went with the change of position, it was hardly a day to release the backs. With the rain coming down and the wind howling, it was the forwards who took centre stage.

“For Roger, we wanted him to get a bit of excitement about what he’s doing; just let him get his hands on the ball and have the ability to roam. Today probably wasn’t that type of day, but what he did do is he caught the high balls that came his way – from kick-off in particular – and he carried and used what we know about his footwork and got us into good positions.

“The other one is he chased our nine’s kicks really hard and, on a day like that, that’s all you can really ask for from your winger. He did a great job.”

It was Taranaki who took the early lead. With the wind at their backs in the first half, they shot out to a 14-3 lead within 25 minutes, with tries to second five-eighth Daniel Rona and hooker Ricky Riccitelli.

While Taranaki were having success, led by a strong performance from the pack, Auckland were unable to get anything going. However, they were able to prevent the visitors from scoring any more tries, with Taranaki adding just a penalty goal before halftime to lead by 14 at the break.