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Fixation of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck highlights Super Rugby Pacific's staleness

By Hamish Bidwell
Credit: Derek Morrison / www.photosport.nz

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It’s a fair old burden Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is having to shoulder.

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‘RTS Watch’ has basically become the sole early season narrative, as the mundanity of Super Rugby Pacific swiftly takes hold.

We really need the Chiefs to be good, otherwise the Crusaders are going to claim this title at a canter.

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Was Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s Blues debut the best cross-code debut of all-time? | Aotearoa Rugby Pod
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Was Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s Blues debut the best cross-code debut of all-time? | Aotearoa Rugby Pod

Tuivasa-Sheck is new, but the rest of the storylines are old.

The Blues need Beauden Barrett’s polish to turn their physical dominance into wins. No surprises there.

Honestly, their defeat to the Hurricanes last week was absolutely galling.

To have needed a genuine game manager for what feels like decades now, and still not properly found one, really isn’t good enough.

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But never mind. The Hurricanes, themselves, might as well be back in 1996.

As has been the case throughout the franchise’s history, the team possesses explosive loose forwards and a potent backline, but only a modest tight five.

Some days that talent will be enough to overcome the deficiencies up front, other days it won’t.

The Highlanders, meanwhile, just don’t have enough talent to compete, particularly compared to the Crusaders who have an absolute stockpile.

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Poor old Highlanders coach Tony Brown. Yes he’s smart, yes he’s an innovator, yes he wouldn’t look out of place on the All Blacks’ staff, but the man can only do so much with what he’s got down in Dunedin.

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If you like winners and admire excellence, then you should love the Crusaders. But then, like much of this stuff, you know that already.

We’d hoped as-yet-unsighted Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua might add compelling new storylines, but that’s not going to happen this season.

These teams will need years, maybe even a decade, before they’re going to be able to do themselves justice. Unfortunately, the history of Super Rugby isn’t littered with examples of patience where poorly-performing franchises are concerned.

Which brings us back to Tuivasa-Sheck.

No player is under anything like his scrutiny as fans and experts alike try to ascertain whether the 28-year-old can actually play.

It would be nice to think we might give him more than a week before we pass judgement but, as the last round showed us, people are suddenly calling Bailyn Sullivan an All Black-in-waiting on the back of one grubber kick and a strong carry. Talk about going the early crow, as they like to say in Australia.

None of this is particularly fair on Tuivasa-Sheck who, like Sonny Bill Williams before him, might need three or four years before he looks like a rugby player, rather than a leaguie learning the ropes.

Unfortunately, Tuivasa-Sheck doesn’t have that much time because there’s so little else to talk about.

I’ve written before that I’m not sure Tuivasa-Sheck can truly crack it in rugby, that maybe his best footballing days are behind him and that playing second five-eighth might prove too big an adjustment for a career outside back. In all honesty, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him try his luck in Japan before too long.

But there’s also no doubt that I, like many, wish him well.

Particularly given that his performances are going to be debated and pulled apart like few others in this sadly underwhelming competition.

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