It’s been a roundabout trip for Chase Tiatia, but the Chiefs super-sub finally appears to be settling into a permanent role in a Super Rugby side.
Tiatia, who made a huge impact off the bench for the Chiefs in their victory over the Hurricanes on Saturday evening, kicked off his Super Rugby career way back in 2016.
On the back of some solid outings with Bay of Plenty, having moving northed from his native Wellington, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie signed Tiatia up on a two-year deal.
Tiatia was well down the pecking order, however, and didn’t make his first appearance until 2017 – in the Chiefs’ 34-6 loss to the touring British and Irish Lions.
2018 saw Tiatia shift south to the Hurricanes but opportunities were again limited for the utility back.
“Down in Wellington I was sort of stuck behind Jordie [Barrett] and just seen as a fullback,” Tiatia told Stuff this week. “So it’s nice to come up here and cover all positions. And being on the bench, I can actually do that. It’s a good role for me. I’m not too fazed if I’m on the bench or starting.”
With Barrett an automatic selection in the No 15 jersey, Tiatia had few chances to press his claim for regular minutes in his local side – even though he was more than capable of playing other positions.
Tiatia started off his career as a first five but has featured in the midfield and on the wing for Bay of Plenty and, while he may again find his chances of playing at fullback limited with the Chiefs thanks to the presence of Damian McKenzie, there’s every chance that coach Clayton McMillan will enlist Tiatia to cover other positions in the backline.
“It helps with selection – the more versatile you are, the more likely you are to get on the field,” Tiatia said. “So I’ve opened myself to be able to play any kind of position any kind of week and just try to make sure I learn the gameplan from every position.”
Tiatia’s impressive form on Saturday night – he scored one try and then helped set up a length of the field effort in the Chiefs’ massive comeback win – could force a change of thinking from McMillan and see McKenzie slot in at No 10 with Tiatia filling in at fullback.
Damian McKenzie is at his best when he's on the counter-attack but his form in the latter stages of the Chiefs' win over the Hurricanes may have the coaches rethinking the best use for the pocket rocket. #HURvCHI #SuperRugbyAotearoahttps://t.co/xiaqbZIPpm
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 23, 2021
It would be a big change in Tiatia’s fortunes, with the 25-year-old asking for an early release from his time with the Hurricanes in order to link up with McMillan, who coached him in age-grade Wellington sides.
“We’ve got a pretty good chemistry, pretty good connection as a player and coach,” Tiatia said of McMillan.
“I get the feeling that he has a lot of belief in me, and lets me go out there and express myself as a rugby player. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted from a coach – the ability to go out there and just do my own thing and have freedom to go out there and play my own style of footy.”
The Chiefs will name their side to take on the Blues on Thursday afternoon.
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