By Gary Caffell
Former All Black Zac Guildford will be in the starting line-up for Wairarapa-Bush when they open their 2016 Heartland championship rugby campaign with a match against King Country at Memorial Park, Masterton, on Saturday.
It will be Guildford’s debut for the union at senior level and he made a favourable impression on head coach Josh Syms when he attended his first training session with the Heartland squad on Tuesday night.
“He looked sharp….big and fast,” Syms said. “He’s a quality player and that shows in everything he does. There was no fuss and bother, he slotted in like he had been there forever.”
Syms is confident all the conjecture over the past couple of weeks as to whether Guildford would get to play for Wairarapa-Bush won’t have any adverse effect on their performance this weekend.
“I guess all the speculation has been a bit of a distraction for the public but, quite frankly, the players
have just gone about their business in the normal way. They appreciate having him but they also know it takes more than one player to win a game of rugby.”
It was as a pacy winger that Guildford made his mark in the All Blacks jersey before personal problems halted his international career but the likelihood is he will be at centre for Wairarapa-Bush with fullback the next likely choice.
“We’ve got a few options with Zac but obviously the more ball we get into his hands the more opportunity he will have to show us what he is made of,” Syms said.
Captaining Wairarapa-Bush against King Country, and through their Heartland campaign, will be openside flanker Eddie Cranston, who made a good fist of the job in the loss to Whanganui last weekend.
Cranston played a lot of his club rugby for Gladstone this season as a midfield back and was impressive enough to be a finalist for the Club Player of the Year award. However, he is first and foremost a loose forward and has played there for Manawatu on the provincial scene.
Syms said Cranston would, however, not be alone in the decision-making process with senior players like Andrew Smith and Tim Priest sure to have an input as well.
“Eddie will do the talking but we’re fortunate to have others who have the experience and nous to lend a hand,” he said.
The prospects are that the tactics applied by Wairarapa-Bush and King Country in Saturday’s game will be as different as chalk and cheese.
Whereas Wairarapa-Bush will very probably look to spread the ball wide on a regular basis King Country are more likely to place the emphasis on forward domination through the physicality of a front five which reputedly has plenty of bulk about it.
Guildford a starter for Wai-Bush
By Gary Caffell