If, or when, the Mitre 10 Cup season gets underway this year, All Blacks halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi will be wearing the blue and gold hoops of his hometown team Bay of Plenty.
After five years playing for Taranaki, the proud Rotorua boy will return home and help the Steamers push for Premiership glory.
“It was a tough decision. Taranaki did a lot for me so to leave Taranaki who I played for five years was definitely tough but I told the coach it was based purely on my family so to have that conversation beforehand made it kind of a bit easier and a bit smoother,” he says.
After a standout 1st XV career at Rotorua Boys High School, Tahuriorangi moved to Taranaki but says playing for the Steamers was always at the back of his mind.
“I just didn’t know the timing, or what the timing looked like. But yeah what a good timing, obviously the Bay have been doing well so to be able to come back and see them in the top grade, all I have to do now is add value
“I’ve always had those conversations with Donk [Steamers coach Clayton McMillan], just to see if it was possible. Obviously they were running through halfbacks back then I tried to squeeze in then. but like I said it was about timing and I just didn’t know when that timing or how that timing would look. He gave me the go forward if I ever wanted to come back home. But like I said I just wanted to make sure I leave on the right terms and on a good note back in Taranaki.
The Rotora born and bred 25-year-old will link up with Māori All Blacks coach, and temporary Chiefs head coach in 2021, McMillan at the Steamers. After winning the Mitre 10 Cup Championship in 2019, and earning promotion to the Premiership for 2020, Tahuriorangi
“This Bay team has been developing over the last couple of years they’ve always been in the finals in that championship, so for them to be in that Premiership it’s not that far off. Obviously every game is a tough game but in saying that, this Bay of Plenty team [is] definitely looking really strong to compete against the likes of Tasman and Canterbury. I don’t think the boys lack experience, a lot of them play in the Chiefs and other franchises so it’s an exciting team,” he says.
While playing for Taranaki, he made his Super Rugby debut for the Hurricanes in 2016. After two years in Wellington, he signed with the Chiefs. That meant he has spent a lot of time away from his son Thomas, and partner Keely, who he married in the summer.
A shift back to the Steamers will see Tahuriorangi able to spend more time with his family at home in Rotorua, something he has become accustomed to during the last six weeks as New Zealand has been in lockdown due to the Coronavirus lockdown.
“I’ve made up for lost time,” he says, “I’ve missed out with my little boy and my wife, so to be able to make up for this six weeks, I’m just trying to make the most of it. The timing around that couldn’t have come better.
“To be able to have that four weeks or six weeks helping my little boy with his kura stuff and that has made me just realise, and it has been a great eye-opener for me just to make sure whenever I have down just to relish those moments.
“It’s just made me realise that it just goes to show how busy our schedules are during the year. I’ve really enjoyed it, to be honest, I’ve been just training but also trying to balance with my whānau and that too,” the three test All Black says.
However, before he can fulfil his dream of wearing the blue and yellow hoops of the Steamers, Tahuriorangi has a revamped 10-week Super Rugby campaign to look forward to with Chiefs, set begin shortly after the government announces the country will move into Level 2.
He says just the prospect of getting back together as a squad is exciting and something he’s looking forward to after training alone for the better part of two months.
“Hopefully we get an indication of when Super Rugby starts up, but a lot of boys are just keen to train together. Obviously, we train by ourselves, you do find it tough, but I guess when you have zoom and WhatsApp and all that kind of stuff you do sort of keep in contact and keep account of what you’re doing each day so I think – yeah I’m definitely keen.
“Whether it’s super rugby, club rugby or whatever it is, just get us running again. Yeah, I think everyone’s pretty excited, yeah it would just be good to get back into it.”