From Aussie 'reject' to All Black star
It seems the tighthead prop the NSW Waratahs desperately crave may have been under their nose all along.
Unfortunately, Angus Ta’avao was shown the door by former coach Daryl Gibson two years ago.
Now he’s an All Black at the Rugby World Cup.
Letting 29-year-old Ta’avao slip through the cracks in 2017 won’t have impressed new Waratahs coach Rob Penney, who in his first press conference nominated tighthead as a position where the Waratahs had struggled.
Ta’avao this week recounted his disappointment upon learning his two seasons with the Waratahs had come to nothing, having crossed the Tasman in a bid to play for the Wallabies via his Australian mother.
“Daryl Gibson came to me and said ‘we don’t have a contract for you next year,” Ta’avao said in a podcast hosted by All Blacks teammate Ardie Savea.
“It was sort of like a punch to the gut because I still felt like I had so much good rugby to play. I still felt like I could offer more.”
Ta’avao also had a newborn son who was unwell in Sydney and began seriously considering a non-rugby career before being thrown a lifeline back in New Zealand at the Chiefs.
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He made his All Blacks debut last year and impressed enough to win World Cup selection ahead of veteran tighthead Owen Franks.
Ta’avao said the Waratahs rejection ended up being the catalyst to realising his childhood dream and he harboured no hard feelings towards Gibson or the team.
Given his experience on both sides of the Tasman, he believes it is clear why Kiwi sides enjoy greater success in Super Rugby.
“In terms of training, it’s not too different. I’d say it’s the skill level in New Zealand,” he said.
“Across the board there are some awesomely skilled players in Australia but for a lot of guys – that basic catch and pass, offload, that sort of thing – it’s so foreign to them.
“It was a pretty stacked Waratahs team [in 2016-17] if you look at the names that were in there and we just couldn’t click and put it together.”