Tafa Tafa, on the attack against Centurions, will start at fullback against Wellington Samoans. PHOTOS/FILE
Today is the last chance for Farriers Wairarapa-Bush players to impress before the start of the Heartland Championship.
Coach Mark Rutene has made sweeping changes from the side that started in the 10-45 loss to Wellington Centurions in Carterton last Saturday.
Most notable is the probable inclusion at second-five of Zac Guildford, who, if he starts, will play his first game for the union since 2016, when he played nine games as a loan player.
The former All Black was a revelation throughout the 2021 club season, where his experience and skills were evident in Greytown’s championship victory in the Chris ‘Moose’ Kapene Memorial Cup.
Guildford missed the first two warm-up games against Poverty Bay and Centurions, and Rutene said the 32-year-old would probably get a full 80 minutes to ready him for a start against West Coast next weekend.
One area Rutene has been forced to call on reinforcements is at prop.
Lewis Bush was suspended for two weeks after a red card in the loss to Centurions, former Tongan international Tolu Fahamokioa is battling a knee injury, and Chris Hemi has withdrawn from the squad.
Rutene has called up former Cook Island international Stan Wright. The 42-year-old has a wealth of experience playing professional rugby in Europe and remains one of the province’s best scrummagers.
Experienced lock Peter Beech is out with a niggly back injury, and loose forward Tavita Isaac is still struggling with concussion.
Rutene said with a big squad of 26 players, the coaching staff were rotating a few players to give all an opportunity before the Heartland Championship kicked off.
“We’re starting to get the nucleus of our squad, and it’s been quite disruptive the first couple of weeks,” he said.
“The first week we had 11, and last week we had eight out, so now, finally, we’re starting to get everyone turning up, which is good for us.
“We want to give everyone a run, but we want to keep progressing.”
Rutene said playing the game on the Trust House Memorial Park artificial turf was also vital in the team’s preparations, because it is a big home advantage.
“We play on it next week, and we’ve just got to get used to playing on it again, because there hasn’t been a lot of club rugby on there this year.”
Rutene doesn’t know a lot about the Samoans but expects them to be as good, if not better, than Wellington Centurions.
“The Wellington Centurions coach [Kent Harris] told me that a few of the Samoan boys were picked for the Centurions and chose to play for Samoans.
“They’ll be tough, big, and physical, but this is their first game and it’s our third so who knows what’s going to happen.”
The game will kick off at earlier-than-usual-time of 1pm today.
Probable Wai-Bush team to play Wellington Samoans
Tafa Tafa, Tristan Flutey, Ueta Tufuga, Zac Guildford, Aseri Waqa, Sam Morison, Inia Katia, Joe Tako, Jake Goodger, Sam Gammie [captain], Vesi Luatua, Dominic Herlihy, Jeramiah Mapusua, Henry Wilson, Tupou Lea’aemanu.
Replacements: Terongo Tekii, James Pakoti, Stan Wright [Snr], Andrew McLean, Johan van Vliet, Isaac Bracewell, Daryl Pickering, Tipene Haira, Soli Malatai, Moomoo Falaniko.