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No injury hassles for Heartland team

By Gary Caffell

Waitrarapa-Bush will be at full strength for their crucial Heartland championship rugby match with Buller at Memorial Park, Masterton, on Saturday.

Head coach Josh Syms was happy to report after Tuesday’s night training session that the three players under injury clouds, midfield back Iziq Foa’l, wing Glen Walters and flanker James Goodger, would all be available for selection.

Whether all three will be named in the starting line-up, however, is something which is open to debate. With only three of their “loan players” able to be named for any one match, Syms and fellow selectors Joe Harwood and James Bruce will have to decide which of the four in that category – Foa’l, halfback John Ika, centre Zac Guildford and prop Stan Wright – misses out.

Of that quartet Ika and Guildford have been regular starters right through the Heartland campaign and their form certainly warrants them being retained.

In what was a man-of-the-match performance in the upset win over North Otago in Oamaru last weekend, Ika scored a brilliant solo try as well as having a big hand in two others while Guildford also scored a try and was a mainstay of a stout defensive effort. The former All Black hasn’t had too many chances to show his proven attacking qualities in what is his debut season in the Wairarapa-Bush colours but his experience and composure have been clearly evident.

That being the case the choice comes down to Wright or Foa’l, two players who offer much in what  are very different positions. Wright is a powerful scrummager and equally impressive ball carrier in close quarter situations while Foa’l’s main attribute is his ability to break or at least stretch the first line of defence with his strong, straight running.

Just what tactics Wairarapa-Bush set out to employ against Buller could therefore decide the fate of Wright and Foa’l. If they want to focus on restricting the quality ball allowed what is a pacey and dangerous rearguard by dominating the forward exchanges Wright will almost certainly get the nod but if they think they can outplay Buller at their own free-flowing game then Foa’l could be their man.

Walters and Goodger would be first choices in most minds. Walters is not a natural winger by any means but has slotted in well there with his ability to move into the first-five slot from time to time being a valuable asset for his side. Goodger, who withdrew from the North Otago game at the 11th hour with a hamstring strain, has been in grand form all season. He has been a reliable winner of ball at the front of the lineouts, an assertive runner in broken play and stoic defender.

The full Wairarapa-Bush starting line-up for Saturday’s game will be confirmed after training at Memorial Park tonight.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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