Kirk Tufuga, right, to lead by example. PHOTO/FILE

Tekii in line for debut

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

New captain Kirk Tufuga will take a ‘follow me, boys’ approach when he leads Farriers Wairarapa-Bush in their crucial Heartland Championship home game against King Country today.

Coach Joe Harwood gave the No 8 the reins for the third round match because regular captain James Goodger and vice-captain Robbie Anderson are nursing injuries.

Goodger [dislocated shoulder] is out for several weeks and Anderson a fortnight with a tight Achilles tendon.

“It’s an honour just to wear the jersey, and to be captain is something very special,” Tufuga said.

“I won’t be saying much to the team, I’ll go for it on the field and let my actions do the talking.”

Tufuga said the team had learned a lot from last Friday’s 11-25 loss to North Otago in Dunedin.

“Our execution let us down. The effort was there, and you couldn’t fault that.

“We defended our hearts out in the first half when North Otago had the majority of territory and possession.”

Wai-Bush did not make the most of what little ball they did get.

“We looked good when we had the ball, but we couldn’t finish the opportunities. We made the gain line and then handling errors and silly little mistakes let us down.”

Tufuga said of more concern were the set pieces. The scrum was often back-pedalling under the pressure from the massive North Otago front row and the lineout throws too often failed to find their man.

“We didn’t get our scrum right. We were a bit slow and lethargic and we struggled technique-wise.

“We had [Darren] Larsen from the Hurricanes over on Tuesday night to work with the forwards on the set pieces and he was great.”

Tufuga said it won’t take a lot to turn around that result.

“I’m confident we can do the deed and make it happen. And then we’ll push on and target the top four.”

Veteran lock Brent Wilson and Gladstone winger Jock Cameron are two new faces in the starting lineup for today.

Wilson replaces Goodger and will make his Wai-Bush debut two days shy of his 38th birthday.

He brings a wealth experience, having previously played for North Harbour and professionally in England.

At 1.93m and 107kg Wilson also adds vital size to the middle row.

Cameron comes on to the wing in place of Logan Hebenton-Prendeville, who is away with the Heartland Under-19 team at the Jock Hobbs Memorial Tournament.

Cameron is a surprise inclusion given that Martinborough’s Alex Priest and Greytown’s MooMoo Falaniko are in the Heartland squad.

Wai-Bush coach Joe Harwood said Cameron’s selection came after an outstanding performance for the development side in their impressive 57-33 win over Horowhenua-Kapiti last Saturday.

“The feedback from the Development coaches is that he was the standout back in that game.

“A couple of others could’ve been considered but they didn’t play last weekend.

“MooMoo is on the bench and he gives us useful impact. He’s only a young guy and we’re being cautious not to throw him in too early.”

In other changes, Brock Price replaces Anderson in the midfield. He will start at second-five, forcing the impressive Ueta Tufuga out to centre.

In the front row, Sam Gammie replaces Max Tufuga, who drops to the bench.

Carterton hooker Terongo Tekii is in line for his first Wai-Bush cap. He was named on the bench for James Pakoti who has been ruled out with a calf injury.

The importance of today’s game is not lost on Harwood.

“It’s massive in the context of the competition. It is so congested with a lot of teams within one point. Results wise, this is a must-win game,” he said.

Wairarapa-Bush are ninth in the championship, but only one point off third place, which is shared by six teams.

King Country come into today’s match having beat Buller 34-12. They lost 26-57 to West Coast in the opening round.

Spectators can also expect to see the Wai-Bush mascot, ‘Rory the Stag’, back on the sidelines today. Supporters’ Club spokesman Roddy McKenzie confirmed a new person has been found to wear the stag’s head for the rest of the season.

The TAB have Wai-Bush warm favourites at $1.37 to win the match.

Wai-Bush team
Inia Katia, Jock Cameron, Ueta Tufuga, Brock Price, Tristan Flutey, Tipene Haira, Daryl Pickering, Kirk Tufuga, Johan van Vliet, Joseva Tako, Brent Wilson, Lachie McFadzean, Sam Tufuga, Bruce Kauika-Petersen, Sam Gammie.

Reserves: Terongo Tekii, Max Tufuga, Sam Shaw, BJ Campbell, Bryan Arnold, Tim Priest, MooMoo Falaniko.

Kick-off 2.30pm today, Trust House Memorial Park.

Coggie’s prediction:

Wai-Bush should get a better share of possession than they did against North Otago. If they make the most of their opportunities, they should win and win well.

Wai-Bush 13 plus.