Serial ball thief Tolu Latu has taken charge of the Waratahs’ starting number two jersey in his return to dominance in the 2017 Super Rugby season. According to the 24-year-old, he owes his success to the teachers and experiences he has had along the way.
“It helped having Taf (Tatafu Polota-Nau) as a mentor here, I was just trying to be a sponge and soak everything up here that he had to offer as a hooker for me as a young guy coming through.
“It’s all thanks to Taf, he really helped me…[along with] Keps (Sekope Kepu) really guiding me.”
Now at the top of the food chain since Polota-Nau’s departure to our Western counterparts, the four-cap Wallaby has plenty to reflect on.
“At times I miss that guidance, I miss getting those tips from him. It’s good to step out from his shadows and just get more game time and try and make that #2 jersey mine.”
Consistency on the field also comes from the training quality brought to the equation by the pedigree of hooking talent in the New South Wales squad, Latu stresses.
“The other two hookers Fitzy (Damien Fitzpatrick) and (Hugh) Roach are keeping me on my toes at training and we are all pushing each other to make each other better.”
Since his time in the Australian Camp, the improvement in his pilfering skill has not gone unnoticed in this years’ edition of Super Rugby. This season alone in, Latu has made 10 successful turnover attempts through his involvements in rucks.
The NSW Country Eagle starter points his finger in one direction: David Pocock.
“He was big as and he couldn’t get moved so I was like, maybe I could use my weight to not get moved. He is great over the ball and yeah he gave me a couple of tips – it’s a secret between me and him.
“I’m just trying to help the team wherever I can – and if that is getting over the ball and steal it then so be it.”
And when did 178cm chop-tackle specialist discover his hidden talent?
“When I realised I was so short!” he joked. “I knew I could always pilfer but this year I’ve tried to bring it back.”
Despite having bagged 36 provincial Caps as either #2 or #16, Latu hasn’t always played up front in the engine room.
“I played in the centres, then 10, then I moved from the backs to the back row, played 8, and then wasn’t tall enough to play 8. Then I moved to 7, wasn’t quite fit enough to play there, and then got shifted to loose head. I was a poor scrummager (sic) so then they put me to hooker and I’m still trying to learn how to throw!”
Having now found his forte within the Sky Blue, Latu now looks ahead to his next task when they take to the field against the Melbourne Rebels this Friday night, kick-off 7:45PM AEST on Fox Sports