Waikato centre Quinn Tupaea makes his Super Rugby debut tonight for the Chiefs against the Blues at Eden Park.
The 20-year-old from Waikato-Tainui is in his first year as a full member of the squad, after being a part of the development squad last season.
With the season starting 2 weeks earlier than last year, it has meant a shorter pre-season, and with a new coach Warren Gatland, Tupaea says training during the hottest months of the year has been different:
“Just a two-month pre-season, so it's been good. Gats has brought a different approach to training. Training a lot shorter, about an hour so the boys are getting in, getting their work done and enjoying the sunshine outside of training.”
The former NZ Secondary Schools captain says that although their training sessions have been shorter than normal the standard hasn’t dropped:
“We're covering a lot more metres than we usually do. So there's not much standing around. It puts a lot of onus on the boys to get their homework done outside training on the computers and stuff like that. But the results of the shorter training is the boys are a lot fresher and we're getting some good results out of it.”
Although experienced Māori players Aaron Cruden and Damian McKenzie won't play in the season opener, Tuapea says they’ve helped him make the step up from Mitre 10 Cup to Super Rugby.
“I think first of all they're great men off the field, very approachable. Then on the field, they're the best in their position and you can see why they've been All Blacks or are current All Blacks. Aaron Cruden runs the ship really well and Damo adds it in from the outside. It's been awesome.”
For the last two years, Tupaea has been one of the standouts of the Mitre 10 Cup with Waikato. He's hoping to continue on the pathway that has got him to where he is so far:
“The Mooloos have been awesome for me. Just getting behind the older guys in that team like Dwayne Sweeney so it's sort of what I'm trying to do here, learn of the older guys and just doing what I'm best at and not over complicating things.”
Should the former NZ U20 star show his potential this year, an exciting midfield combination with All Black Anton Lienert-Brown beckons.