Flying Fijian winger comes up trumps for Chiefs
They were calling him the one-man bonus point at North Harbour Stadium on Saturday night, but Chiefs winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma admits he is still learning.
Tikoirotuma became the 11th player in Super Rugby to score four tries in a match when he got four of the Chiefs' five against the Blues and also matched the Chiefs' record of four held by fellow Fijian Sitiveni Sivivatu.
"The last time I scored four tries was probably when I was at school in Fiji," the modest 25-year-old Manawatu flyer said after his fourth try broke a 34-34 deadlock and ensured a 41-34 victory for the competition leaders.
"Even though there were plenty of ups and downs tonight and it was anybody's game, it was team work that won it for us and I just happened to pop up in the right place at the right time."
The four tries put him in the record books alongside the likes of not just Sivivatu but Joe Roff, Gavin Lawless, Stefan Terblanche, Joeli Vidiri, Doug Howlett, Mils Muliaina, Caleb Ralph, Drew Mitchell and Sean Maitland.
His reaction? "Nothing more than happy. I'm really happy to make my mark and hopefully I can be consistent with it."
He has always looked up to Sivivatu, who had set a marker for Fiji's other players to aspire to and try to better.
"I'm trying my best to do that. I'm resetting my goals nearly every week, but at the moment I'm just trying to secure another contract for my future."
Head coach Dave Rennie, who first recruited Tikoirotuma from Wanganui for his Manawatu team and then signed him up for the Chiefs when he got the job here, said the winger, who also can play centre, had questioned his own ability to play at Super Rugby level at first.
"Tiks was really nervous about being promoted to this level," Rennie said. "We had a lot of belief in him but I'm not sure he did himself and even confirmed that pre-Christmas, but he's fronted big time, has grown quickly and that was a massive performance from him tonight.
"Real quality finishing and he worked hard to get in the right spots."
Tikoirotuma said he still suffered from nerves, especially when playing away from the support of the Chiefs' home crowd.
But he said some of that early apprehension had been lifted by him doing his homework, training hard and asking questions.
Most of all, the welcoming atmosphere of the Chiefs' setup had made him feel comfortable and at ease.
"I've never been to a team before that is like a family like this one is. This team is like a family to me, they look after me, especially the boys."