Super Rugby Pacific: Blues coach Leon MacDonald impressed by skillset of star recruit Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is still to take the field after his code hop from rugby league, but he is already blowing away expectations.

The former NZ Warriors skipper had hoped to suit up for Auckland in the National Provincial Championship after his mid-season switch from rugby league, but the COVID-19 Delta outbreak put pay to those plans with the blue and white hoops sitting out most of the season.

On Monday, Tuivasa-Sheck's Blues coach Leon MacDonald confirmed his star recruit will play in the midfield after much speculation over his preferred position.

During his school days, Tuivasa-Sheck had stints in the midfield, wing and fullback for Otahuhu College's 1st XV, but MacDonald sees second-five or centre as the 28-year-old's natural position.

"The big-picture plan was to start him in the outsides with Auckland and progress him into midfield for us," MacDonald says.

"But we've missed that through COVID, unfortunately. 

"But the outside backs has been easy for him, and it didn't take him long to adjust. We feel he's ticked that box. He did full-contact training with Auckland and looked great on the wing.

"So we've said let's narrow his focus now and concentrate on midfield for the next while, knowing if he does become an outside back for whatever reason, that transition is halfway done for him."

And don't expect any easing in process for the former Blues junior star with MacDonald expecting Tuivasa-Sheck to be available for the opening game of the season on February 19.

"I expect him to be ready to go.

"In his mind he's definitely ready to go in round one. It's about trying to pull him back instead of push him forward. He's pretty determined and excited.

"If you speak to any of the players and coaches, we're blown away by how quickly he has taken to the game. 

"It's like he never left it. His detail and preparation is really impressive and his skillset is right up there. We thought it might take him a while with the different skillets, but he's been working really hard at that.

"Like everyone, he'll be trying to put his hand up and push for that game one starting spot."

The Blues will be without some familiar names for the 2022 campaign with skipper Patrick Tuiploltu on sabbatical and the losses of TJ Faiane and Otere Black to Japan while Blake Gibson has defected to the Hurricanes.

But Tuivasa-Sheck's inclusion and the return of Beauden Barrett offers some excitement for MacDonald who has also recruited former All Blacks lock Luke Romano and ex-Hurricanes hooker Ricky Riccitelli.

Add those names to a talented core of youth stars like fullback Zarn Sullivan and 2021 breakout All Blacks flanker Dalton Papalii, MacDonald believes the nucleus is there for a winning campaign.

"We've had a taste of success - but last year's [Super Rugby trans-Tasman] title was only half the season - we want to win the full season title, and that's going to be our drive."