Soli Malatai . . . Marist winger could get call-up to start for Wairarapa-Bush against South Canterbury in a Heartland Championship match in Timaru on Saturday. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

GARY CAFFELL

Wairarapa-Bush head coach Joe Harwood was not mincing his words after his team’s hefty 38-12 loss to Horowhenua-Kapiti in their Heartland Championship rugby match at Westpac Stadium, Wellington on Sunday.

Harwood said he was “very disappointed” at the lack of energy and intensity shown by his players, especially in the first half at the end of which they trailed 18-0.

“We dropped our heads after they scored an early try and that made it too easy for them to dominate possession and territory — there was no urgency there.

“We looked like we were just going through the motions.”

While the second spell did see Wairarapa-Bush run in a couple of good tries and generally be more competitive, Harwood said there was still a tendency to turn over ball because of basic handling and passing errors.

“We still weren’t composed enough, we were forcing passes when we needed to be patient and that played right into their hands.”

Sunday’s loss virtually guarantees Wairarapa-Bush will be one of four teams in the championship who won’t be involved in either the Meads Cup or Lochore Cup semi-finals come the completion of the qualifying rounds on October 15.

Right now, they are 11th equal with King Country on nine points with only East Coast [zero points] behind them.

To make the second tier Lochore Cup semis they would need at least 17 points which would mean them winning their last two qualifying games against South Canterbury in Timaru and West Coast in Masterton and having several other results go their way as well.

To say South Canterbury this coming Saturday will be a huge challenge would, in fact, be a gross understatement.

South Canterbury head the Heartland standings with 26 points with just the one loss in their six games.

They have a home Meads Cup semi-final very much in their sights so any thoughts that complacency will be an issue against a Wairarapa-Bush team whose only scalp has been East Coast can be quickly dismissed.

The Wairarapa-Bush starting lineup for the Timaru match is likely to differ quite significantly from that which initially took the field against Horowhenua-Kapiti with coach Harwood saying that he and assistant coach James Bruce were considering both personnel and positional changes.

“It’s a good chance to start looking towards the future and giving players the opportunity to show they have something positive to offer in that respect,” he said.

Of those who came off the bench for Wairarapa-Bush on Sunday, halfback Inia Katia and No 8 Tavita Isaac made the most impression and they could be elevated to a starting role in Timaru as could young winger Soli Malatai.

In Katia’s case that could mean moving former All Black Piri Weepu out a place to first-five, a position to which he is no stranger.