Blues before Blacks for Tuitavake
April 10, 2008
Anthony Tuitavake's name may have been tossed up as a possible All Black, but the centre-cum-winger says thoughts of a New Zealand test jumper aren't playing on his mind.
His primary focus is on his role for the Blues, who have hit a sticky patch over the past month after their fast start to the season.
With Joe Rokocoko ruled out for at least the initial All Black Tests because of wrist surgery, the list of possible stand-ins at international level include Tuitavake and another uncapped Blue and fellow-Junior All Black, Rudi Wulf.
Tuitavake, 25, said his first reaction to Rokocoko's injury was one of disappointment.
"He's a vital part of the Blues, with his experience and world class, and we're definitely going to miss him," he said.
"I never really thought about the All Blacks when I heard the news. First and foremost, I have to perform and that's the main focus at the moment."
It was now a case of fellow-wingers Wulf and David Smith -- the latter included on the bench for the visit of the ACT Brumbies on Saturday night -- to fill the breach for the Blues.
Tuitavake was reasonably happy with his form so this season, but was looking for improvement in several areas. They included retaining possession when tackled, keeping up his defensive concentration and improving his kicking skills.
He had no complaints about operating on the wing rather than in his previously preferred spot of centre.
"Now that I've been given the opportunity on the wing, I love it," he said. "I don't know if I would want to be back at centre," he added with a laugh.
He was also relishing being part of a backline that contained All Blacks Nick Evans at first five-eighth and Isaia Toeava at centre, and up-and-comer Benson Stanley at second five-eighth.
However, that same backline has struggled to impose itself after the Blues' three early bonus-point victories, which had them at the top of the table.
In the five matches since then, the Blues have managed just two wins, and scored just one try through their outside backs.
That came via Tuitavake, who dotted down in the defeat at home to the Western Force.
For Tuitavake, the key to getting the backline humming again was cutting down the Blues' error rate.
Mistakes had hindered the team's ability to get the ball out wide and put players into space, as was the case when the Waratahs humbled the Blues 37-16 in Sydney last weekend.
"We made a lot of mistakes and that's what it comes down to," he said. "If we want to build pressure, we have to hold on to the ball."
The Blues are clinging to third spot as they head into their match against the ninth-placed Brumbies.
Tuitavake said the performance against the Waratahs had been deeply disappointing, but had been dealt with.
"We've moved on from there and we've built up pretty well this week," he said. "We're really confident going into this game. We know if we stick to the game plan the coaches have given us, we'll come up with the right result."
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