With Friday night’s all-important European Champions Cup play-off final with Stade Francais drawing ever closer, Saints’ attentions are firmly on battling it out for that final European Champions Cup place.
Nafi Tuitavake’s introduction to the Saints side has come as somewhat of a baptism of fire for the Tongan centre. Coming into the first team soon after arriving due to injuries within the Saints squad, Tuitavake has since cemented his place in the first fifteen but says that the switch to English rugby and the Aviva Premiership has been something he has enjoyed.
“It’s been a surprise,” Tuitavake commented. “Not knowing the style, how the English play, how it all works over here and all that.
“I’ve just been trying to soak everything up as I’ve been playing. Having to play these extra two games has definitely been exciting and something to look forward to.
“I was definitely expecting a lot more wet weather rugby but it’s actually been quite good. The physicality I was expecting has definitely lived up to expectations though, it’s definitely very physical the Premiership.
“It’s definitely more physical than Pro D2 and faster. But comparing it to Super Rugby as well it’s a bit more physical with bigger boys playing the game over here.”
Having already played 14 games for Saints since joining in October, Tuitvake has put in some brilliant solo performances but the centre says he will never be truly happy with his own performance.
“I don’t think you can ever be completely happy with your own performance. I’m always trying to improve week in week out and with the results we’ve been getting.
“Looking forwards to this weekend’s game and next season, we just want to build some combinations and with getting to know the boys this season I just want to build on that.”
Being a part of two different centre partnerships in his 14 games and teaming up with both Harry Mallinder and Luther Burrell, Tuitavake says that while the two play, differently they are both players he can adapt to playing with.
“Playing outside different inside centres doesn’t affect the game too much. Harry and Luther are different players though; I feel Harry’s more of a distributer and Luther’s more of your crash and bash 12 who brings up the defence. Two different players but I get along with them both; I can adjust to both styles.”
Looking ahead to the all important clash this weekend with Stade Francais for the last qualification spot in next season’s European Champions Cup, the centre said that Saints want to win on Friday to reward the supporters’ loyalty over the past tough season.
“Definitely,” Tuitavake commented simply when asked whether this season ender was a crunch game. “The boys want to be a part of that European Champions Cup next year.”
“We want to finish at home for our fans, they’ve been great supporters despite the results we’ve had this year so we want to finish on a good note for them.”