This 2017 Blues rugby squad has an established core group of leaders. Men who have been involved with the franchise for many years. Men like Jerome Kaino and Charlie Faumuina, who are keen to imbed their knowledge and experiences onto the new men of today’s side – and this includes Murphy Taramai.
The ex-Wellington Lions and New Zealand Sevens player, who last year was a part of the Mitre 10 Cup Championship winning Harbour Rugby side, is a name to watch in the Blues side. A young man with youth and exuberance on his side, Last Word On Rugby caught up with Taramai after the Blues v Highlanders Super Rugby match Saturday.
He is one of the influx of men who coach Tana Umaga believes can express the way that the Blues wish to play in 2017. There have been strong signings; like Sonny Bill Williams, Augustine Pulu, Michael Collins and Brandon Nansen.
Taramai is one of the ‘newbies’ and his reaction to being asked how he feels in being a part of the Blues is simple, “Really enjoying it.”
Murphy Taramai: Looking to Learn Off Blues Leaders
Playing only his second cap for the Super Rugby franchise, he carried well in the 56 minutes of action he enjoyed. “It’s a lot faster [than Mitre 10 Cup] but you get better players to play with.”
The starting Blues number eight will have meant the 77 cap All Black, Jerome Kaino. The fearsome loose forward is ‘part of the woodwork’ of the Blues franchise. The only survivor from the Championship winning 2003 squad, Kaino plays hard and is a man to mirror; for a young loose forward.
“It’s an honour” Taramai told LWOR, when asked what it is like to play beside Kaino. “You watch him on TV and you strive to be like him. To play alongside him is such a massive opportunity, and Blake as well.”
Taramai is referring to Blake Gibson, a blindside flanker who many in Auckland see as the ‘next in line’ for an All Blacks jersey. Young, extremely talented, and an influence on Taramai, as is Akira Ioane, Kara Pryor and 2017 skipper Jimmy Tupou. The loose forward stocks at the Blues are very healthy, and a breeding ground for men like Taramai and Nansen to grow their game in Super Rugby.
More Time on the Park Will Bring Long-term Rewards
The relationship with North Harbour brings more familiarity for Taramai. “Yep, I worked with him [assistant coach Steve Jackson] at Harbour. Know his structures, know what he wants.” And this too shows how it would give Taramai a head-start on others, to work with Jackson and the defensive systems employed in 2017.
Jackson himself is very effusive of the qualities that Taramai brings. In 2016 he spoke highly of the number eight on the Harbour Rugby Coaches Clipboard page; “Murphy Taramai showed what an asset he is going to be for Harbour, with some imposing defence.” That appears to be his strong suit, although he admitted to LWOR “it was good to get a run” when his contribution was highlighted.
His 34 meters gained, one defender beaten and four passes are solid figures. His 100% success rate in his nine tackles is also good evidence for the Blues to use him more over this season. Taramai will be hoping to build on the two caps, which will add to his Mitre 10 Cup experience.
Even at the young age of 25, he has fit in plenty of time on the field. And that began more in the Sevens game. He was a part of the National Sevens winning Wellington side, before Sir Gordon Tietjens brought him into the All Black Sevens. With three World Series tournaments to his name, Taramai looked to be heading for a career as a specialist. But he decided to shift from the Upper Hut to Albany, North Harbour in 2016 on a two year contract.
“My focus will be on 15-a-side and I’m happy to play anywhere in the back row.”
Bright Future Ahead of Blues Number Eight–if Given the Chance
Some will think that as soon as Steven Luatua serves his penalty, young Murphy Taramai might see more time in the development squad. Others will believe if Luatua has chosen to earn Euro over the NZ dollar [signing with Connacht], then his enthusiasm has waned. Why not pass the torch now?
Taramai is big, fast and has the instinct to be a good link-man. Like Kieran Read, his role at the Blues is not just to run hard at the offense, or to burrow into a ruck, it will be developed to link the backline to the forwards. So a young pair of legs is just what Umaga needs, to play alongside men like Gibson and Kaino..
And Murphy Taramai will be there to learn off Blues leaders. To ask questions and to pick up tips–the only limit to his future, is how much the young man is prepared to put in. After speaking with Taramai last week, LWOR can see this young star going far.
“Main photo credit”