Joe Tako, in try-scoring form against Horowhenua-Kapiti in 2020, will start at No 8. PHOTOS/FILE
Rutene to work on combinations
Farriers Wairarapa-Bush coach Mark Rutene expects a step up in intensity in today’s second warm-up match for the Heartland Championship against Wellington Centurions.
Wai-Bush go into the game at Carterton after a 31-36 loss last Saturday to Poverty Bay in the Jeremy David Memorial Cup game in Napier.
Rutene felt that given all the disruptions in the build-up because of injury and illness, to lose to an 86th-minute try was a pretty good showing.
The team has been boosted with the inclusion, for the first time this season, of the four players of origin – wing Soli Malatai, utility back Tafa Tafa, midfield back Ueta Tufuga, and loose forward Joe Tako.Malatai, Tafa, and Tako will all start, while Tufuga, who has come into the squad to replace the injured Levi Harmon [broken leg], has been named on the bench. The Manawatu-based Tufuga made a huge impression in 11 appearances in Wai-Bush’s top-four finish in the 2019 season.
Young Carterton winger Aseri Waqa also gets another chance to shine after scoring the team’s opening try and impressing with his general play in the loss to Poverty Bay.
The experienced Tipene Haira will start at first-five, and with Tafa at second-five, the new combination could add an exciting attacking dimension, with the powerful Tufuga to come off the bench and add punch in the second half.
Apart from Tako at No 8, the only change in the forward pack is veteran Andrew McLean at lock for former Mid-Canterbury lock Vesi Luatua, who drops to the bench.
Props Tolu Fahamokioa and Chris Hemi, loose forward Tavita Isaac and backs Matt Raleigh, Moomoo Falaniko, and Robbie Anderson were ruled out with injury. Prop Jeramiah Mapusua is away with the NZ Marist Colts.
Rutene is hopeful that Anderson [hamstring] and Falaniko [ankle] could be available for the start of the Heartland campaign against West Coast in a fortnight.
They were running at training during the week, and Falaniko’s injury, initially diagnosed as a fractured ankle, is not as bad as first thought.
Rutene wants to see improvement from last Saturday, but said it will be tough against Centurions, who he described as Wellington B dressed up in disguise.
The visitors contain players who have been part of the Lions’ preseason, those on the fringe of selection, and some of the more experienced and consistently performing players in the Wellington club competitions.
“Hopefully, we get a good game out of it, and we can try some of the stuff we want to try,” said Rutene.
“Our combinations are the big one. We’ll have three different combinations from Poverty Bay to this game and next week when those guys come back from injury. We want to get settled by next weekend because West Coast are the following weekend.”
Rutene expects today’s game to be the toughest of the three pre-Heartland Championship fixtures, with Wellington Samoans to follow on Trust House Memorial Park next Saturday.
Kick-off is at 2pm today at Carterton.
Wai-Bush team to play Wellington Centurions:
Inia Katia, Aseri Waqa, Tristan Flutey, Tafa Tafa, Soli Malatai, Tipene Haira, Daryl Pickering, Joe Tako, Johan van Vliet [captain], Jake Goodger, Andrew McLean, Peter Beech, Lewis Bush, Henry Wilson, Tupou Lea’aemanu. Substitutes: Terongo Tekii, Sam Siaosi, Dominic Herlihy, Vesi Luatua, Sam Gammie, Isaac Bracewell, Sam Morison, Ueta Tufuga.