WELLINGTON (Reuters) - The “devastating” death of Michael Tamoaieta did not have a big impact on the Auckland Blues in defeat to the Jaguares but they will do all they can to celebrate their former team mate next up against the Sunwolves, forwards coach Tom Coventry said.
Tamoaieta, who played as a prop for the Super Rugby side last season and was in the North Harbour provincial side, died suddenly on Friday in Auckland at the age of 23.
The Blues were told the bad news ahead of their 23-19 loss in Buenos Aires, where the South Americans foiled a late surge to keep them winless after three games.
“It was a devastating team meeting when we had to announce that we lost our Mikey,” Coventry told New Zealand media. “It was a tough day.
“We tried to leave the emotion out of losing Mikey but we were very aware of him and were trying to perform for him,” Coventry said. “(But) 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.”
The Blues now travel home from Argentina and host a resurgent Sunwolves side next week at North Harbour Stadium in Albany.
The Tokyo-based team finally won their first ever game away from home in their fourth season of Super Rugby on Saturday with a 30-15 victory over the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton.
Coventry said the Blues would have more than resurrecting their season to play for.
“We’ll get home and give Mikey a farewell during the course of the week,” he said.
“We get back to (North Harbour) Stadium which is Mikey’s home province, so we’ll have plenty to play for.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ian Ransom