“I haven’t really pondered it,” he said of the milestone. “I suppose I’ve thought about where it is and who it’s against…to be playing against the Blues for the Chiefs at Eden Park where growing up that was the home of rugby for me, where I always wanted to play.
“I haven’t stewed over it too much but it’s been in the back of my mind. I suppose it’s just an exciting, exciting moment for me.”
It’s a milestone Ta’avao looked unlikely to achieve early in his career. He spent a few years at the Blues, having to fight for every opportunity he could get his hands on, before leaving Kiwi shores to join the Waratahs on a two-year deal in 2016.
The change of scenery didn’t pan out and Ta’avao’s career was left in limbo. Returning to New Zealand and suiting up for Taranaki in the Mitre 10 Cup, the best offer Ta’avao had to return to Super Rugby was a spot in the Chiefs wider squad. There was no guarantee he’d get a game for the team.
But with the Chiefs hit by injuries, Ta’avao got his opportunity early in the 2018 season, and never looked back.
“I’ve never been the most talented guy,” Ta’avao said looking back on his Super Rugby career.
“But through what I’ve been in and what I’ve been able to achieve, it’s hard work and not giving up. I’ve been labelled so many things in my career from arrogant to bad scrummager, all sorts of things, it’s always about believing in yourself and just backing yourself.
“Everything is a period of growth. I wouldn’t be here without those experiences.”
Now a vital part of the Chiefs system with three test caps for the All Blacks, Ta’avao has gone from struggling to link up with a Super Rugby team to fighting for a place in the All Blacks World Cup squad.
Ta’avao will line up in the front row tonight against his former team with plenty on the line as the Chiefs try to remain in the hunt for the playoffs. A loss to the Blues would all but end their season, and the battle of the front row will be a key factor in the match.
This article first appeared on nzherald.co.nz and is republished with permission.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now