Mike Tamoaieta's death has shocked the rugby community.
Mike Tamoaieta's death has shocked the rugby community.

Star’s tragic death shocks world rugby

Blues assistant coach Tom Coventry has spoken of the devastation felt by his team when they were told of the news of the sudden death of Mike Tamoaieta before their Super Rugby match against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.

The Blues fought until the end of their 23-19 defeat - their third loss of the season - and while Coventry said he and his fellow coaches tried to take the emotion out of the build-up to the match at Jose Amalfitani Stadium, the task faced by his men after the loss of the 23-year-old prop known as Mikey T on Friday would have been very difficult.

"It was a devastating team meeting when we had to announce that we lost our Mikey," Coventry said. "Our condolences go to his family and close friends and obviously the rugby public of North Harbour and the Blues.

"It was a tough day. We spoke about Mikey and reminisced about him and the influence he's had on our team. We tried to leave the emotion out of losing Mikey but we were very aware of him and were trying to perform for him.

"I don't think it had a big impact on the way we played. It was more to do with our structure and being able to nail down the key moments.

"It's tough. We'll get home and give Mikey a farewell during the course of the week. We get back to QBE Stadium which is Mikey's home province, so we'll have plenty to play for."

With a potentially difficult game against the Sunwolves at North Harbour on Saturday, half of the Blues team, plus coach Leon MacDonald, have caught an early flight back to Auckland.

Coventry and the rest of the team have remained and will be looking forward to coming home after losses to the Sharks in Durban and now the Jaguares and the news about Tamoaieta.

Coventry coached the tighthead prop for two years at North Harbour and spoke of his special qualities.

Tamoaieta (wearing white) was a good player and a good person.
Tamoaieta (wearing white) was a good player and a good person.

"He had a beautiful debut for us and earned a starting spot for us in that 2017 season," Coventry said. "He's going to be dearly missed. He had a big smile, was a happy go-lucky chap.

"He was always up for a joke and never took himself too seriously. He's going to leave a big hole in our team. We'll miss him dearly.

"When I first met him he had come straight from a building site and he still had his boots and Swandri on and was covered in sawdust. Mikey used to wear his hair pretty long around his shoulders.

"I was wondering who this rooster was who had turned up but that day he trained well above himself and earned the right to start regularly for the team. He quickly became a team favourite. He was a very infectious character."

Sunwolves captain Michael Little also revealed how members of his team were struggling with the shock news of the sudden passing of Tamoaieta only hours before they pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Super Rugby history by defeating the Chiefs 30-15.

An emotional Little, who joined the Sunwolves from North Harbour last year, said the 23-year-old's death had "hurt players all over New Zealand".

"He kind of came into Harbour the year after I did but all Kiwis kind of know each other so it did hit pretty hard. It's emotional talking about it. He's a good man and he is going to be missed," Little said, moments after the Sunwolves created history by beating the Chiefs 30-15 in Hamilton.

"We've got a huge Kiwi bunch in the crew so it hit does hit home pretty hard. It's not the news you want to hear the morning of the game.

"My wife rang me… and broke the news to me. It was a hard couple of hours. It's always on your mind coming into the game and I'm glad we got that performance.

"We (the Sunwolves) talked about it. It's going to hurt players all over NZ."

This article first appeared on the NZ Herald and was reproduced with permission

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