Naiyaravoro putting in the work as he deals with being a marked man at Saints

When you develop the kind of highlights reel that Taqele Naiyaravoro has over the years, opposition sides are going to sit up and take notice.

By Tom Vickers
Wednesday, 23rd December 2020, 4:38 pm
Taqele Naiyaravoro is now a big target for opposition teams
Taqele Naiyaravoro is now a big target for opposition teams

And Saints’ powerhouse wing feels that is exactly what has happened, with a lot more focus being put on stopping him from wreaking havoc.

“I won’t lie - I feel there are a lot more defenders who are drawn towards me now than in my first season here,” said Naiyaravoro, who joined Saints from the Waratahs in 2018.

“It tells me maybe that I’m doing something right but once a lot more people come towards me it makes it a lot harder for me to do my thing and break those tackles.

“But I just need to take that challenge onboard.

“I actually gave myself two weeks at the start of the season to get back into my playing weight and my form and I’m excited to be back at it.

“I just had a check of myself and tried to see if I could make a proper weight because I feel like if I move my weight down I move a lot better and do a lot more stuff.

“It was ownership of myself and putting it on myself to get into a better shape.

“I’m happy the coaching staff allowed me to take those first two weeks of the season to try to make it happen for me - and it did.

“I’m in a better place now.”

As Naiyaravoro alludes to, he didn’t feature in Saints’ first two matches of this season as he was trying to hit his fighting weight.

He did play in the pre-season game against Worcester Warriors but after a couple of defensive lapses, he clearly felt he wasn’t where he wanted to be.

And he worked from morning until night to get himself right before returning as a replacement against Bristol Bears on December 4.

“I did training with the boys on the rugby but I would come in a lot earlier in the morning to get myself working before everyone else turned up,” Naiyaravoro said.

“It was kind of a first-one-in-last-one-out kind of thing for those two weeks.

“There was a bit of extra running after sessions and a lot more cardio stuff initially.

“I wasn’t far off this weight last season and as a whole weight thing, it helps me a lot defensively.

“Being in a backline with a lot of quicker, younger boys I have to keep up with them.

“For me, I do make some mistakes and some misreads in defence so I thought if I got a bit lighter and fitter it could help me and it does.

“I came back and I had a few defensive attempts and felt good.”

Naiyaravoro now gets set to square up against Worcester again on Boxing Day.

And if anyone can land a knockout blow for Saints, it is their bulldozing wing.

“Every game is like a final game for us, that’s how we look at it,” said the 29-year-old, who has scored 16 tries in 58 appearances for Saints.

“The next game is the biggest and Worcester are a good team when they get it right as well.

“It’s going to be hard to defend them but for us it’s about looking at ourselves and doing what we do better.

“We need to stop making those silly errors and focus on ourselves.”