The 27-year-old turned heads not only with his strong form for the Blues during Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa but also for his inspirational captaincy which saw the Blues complete their best season in recent memory and recapture the imagination of fans in New Zealand’s biggest city.
Talking on the Sky Sport’s flagship show ‘The Breakdown’, Tuipulotu said the North captaincy role is another step in his leadership journey which began when he made his debut for the Blues in 2014.
“For me it has been about coming out of my shell. I remember back in 2014 I was a little shy kid who was just happy to be there,” Tuipulotu said.
“The growth for me is that I am in a leadership role now where I get to motivate a big group of guys to work towards a common goal. It’s a good start, but for me it is to keep being myself and keep pushing the boundaries. I’m trying to grow more and add more to my game - on and off the field.”
The 30-Test All Black said the highly competitive Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa competition would provide the perfect lead-in to what will be fierce clash between the best players in the country on August 29.
“I’m expecting a pretty tough encounter. Everyone is trying to put their hand up and make a statement. There will be an element of home ground roots and trying to represent where you are from while also trying to put your hand up for higher honours.”
As for players to watch out for, Tuipulotu gave special mention to dynamic loose forward Akira Ioane who impressed for the Blues throughout Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa.
“The first few years of his career he (Akira Ioane) was known for the damage he could do with ball in hand. This year he hasn’t had the ball in hand as much as he would like but he’s still doing a lot of damage in the tackle area, being a menace and getting around the park a lot more. He is fitter and become a lot more alive and in the game.
“He’s obviously been through the trenches with a lot of feedback and what the public has been saying about him but he’s done really well to back himself and keep his head to the ground and keep working hard,” Tuipulotu said.
Although the Steinlager North v South match is first up on the agenda, Tuipulotu said he would jump at the chance to play in a competition like Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa again.
“I would relish the chance to have another Super Rugby Aotearoa - it’s fast fun rugby.
“I remember the first three weeks of the competition I was heading into the Highlanders game really sore and then to be able to get to the ninth week and be feeling better than I did then is pretty amazing. If we had it again I would jump at the chance. I know a lot of people enjoyed the rugby, the fans loved it and so did the players, so it would be fun.”
The Steinlager North v South match is scheduled to take place on Saturday 29 August with a final decision on the venue for the match to be made following the Government's review of Covid-19 levels on Friday.