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It won’t be long before we click as a unit, says the Sharks’ Wallaby centre Ben Tapuai

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Durban — Sharks centre Ben Tapuai has won a Super Rugby title with the Queensland Reds and an English Premiership just last year with Harlequins and he reckons his new team will be in the market for silverware if they can convert their potential into premier performances.

The stocky Aussie of Samoan descent turned 33 a fortnight ago on January 19 and says he spent it soaking up the sun after too long in the European winters.

Three days later he had had a cracking debut in the Sharks’ 47-37 defeat of the Lions and after the mixed fortunes of the 22-22 draw with the Stormers last week, he is in a position to judge where the Sharks are placed on their progression curve.

“Coming here, you can see there is a lot of youth in the system in the URC and Currie Cup teams, so there is a lot of opportunity for development and when you add the established stars – I have lost count of how many Boks are in this squad – you see miles of growth ahead,” the affable Tapuai said.

“The combinations will click in time,” he added. “And the killer instinct will come. It is no secret that we are disappointed that we drew the game last week. The positive is that we executed most of the opportunities we were given, so we are excited about that.

“We started really well but then our discipline let us down and we have spoken about how that let them into the game when we should have been putting them away.”

Coach Sean Everitt has said that one of the reasons Tapuai was recruited is because his vast experience at 12 can rub off on the youthful flyhalves – Boeta Chamberlain and Curwin Bosch.

“Boeta has got the tricks of the trade,” Tapuai said. “Part of my job is to try and give him confidence. I am pretty vocal on the field and am trying to give him as much information as I can on the field to make his job easier.”

Outside of him, it is a different story. He has Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi and Aphelele Fassi, some of them the best in their positions in the world.

“Playing with the Boks in this backline just makes my job so much easier,” he said. “When you have world-class players around you, you only have to focus on your job and not worry about what they are doing.

“And playing with them is going to get better. I have not been here long and am trying to get into the groove. It won’t be long before we click.”

Interestingly, a major reason why Tapuai chose South Africa was because he and his family literally needed a major change in scenery after half a decade in London.

“We came because of the sun as well as the opportunity to play a different brand of rugby,” he said.

“My wife and I needed a change – she suffered quite a bit in the Covid times, it was a dark period and we are really glad we made the move.

“I have seen more sun in the last month or so than in five in the UK!”

Finally, a cunning question was put to the Queenslander to discover if he knew how to pronounce the surname of the No 7 flank in the Sharks team, Jeandre Labuschagne.

“LubooShane!” He exclaimed. “Just like the great Aussie batsman! (Klerksdorp-raised Marnus Labuschagne).”



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