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Cup defence on their minds

Inia Katia replaces Nathan Hunt on the right wing. PHOTOS/FILE

Harwood makes six changes to Wai-Bush starting lineup

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

A Wairarapa-Bush victory over Horowhenua-Kapiti at Carterton today would virtually set up a final for the Bruce Steel Memorial Cup against Whanganui next week.

Whanganui kicked off the three-game competition last week with a 36-7 win over Horowhenua-Kapiti, and a Wai-Bush win would mean the two unbeaten teams would have everything to play for in the final round.

The green and reds hold the trophy, which is normally contested as a challenge trophy, after beating Whanganui 28-18 in the Heartland Championship last year.

With the cancellation of the 2020 Heartland Championship because of covid-19, it is being decided in a three-way contest.

Wai-Bush defeated Horowhenua-Kapiti 41-8 when the teams met in Levin on September 12, but coach Joe Harwood was preparing for a tougher assignment today.

“We’re expecting a pretty different Horowhenua-Kapiti side from what we played last time,” he said. “That was the first hit-out for both teams, and they hadn’t played for a while, so they will be a lot stronger.”

Sam Morison has impressed in his two starts at first-five.

Harwood has made six changes to the side that started last Saturday’s 46-26 win over Poverty Bay in Napier.

“We’ve got enough depth within the squad that the guys do equally as well if they are starting or coming off the bench. So it’s just balancing up the workloads for the other guys,” he said.

“Looking across the squad everybody was going to get a decent crack at it and an opportunity to start at some stage.”

That will have halfback Lee Thomson make his debut in the green and red, and Harwood said it was a great opportunity for the Eketahuna player to put his hand up.

Regular prop Sam Gammie’s versatility earns him a start at lock, a position where he has performed well previously.

“We know Gammie can cover lock and prop, and with those big boys lurking around the corner, we can use his size and ability to carry over the advantage line, and that allows us to bring Max [Tufuga] back into the front row.”

In the other change in the forwards, Tavita Isaac has been rewarded for his good form off the bench with a start at blindside flanker, in place of big Fijian Joe Tako, who will provide the power against a weakening defence when he is introduced from the bench.

Centre Teihana Brown and fullback Tafa Tafa return to the starting XV after recovering from hamstring injuries suffered in the previous clash with Horowhenua-Kapiti.

Inia Katia has been named on the right wing in place of the unavailable Nathan Hunt, while experienced utility back Tipene Haira has been ruled out with a groin injury.

Harwood has changed the makeup of the bench to four forwards and three backs to provide extra cover in case of any recurrence of Brown’s and Tafa’s injuries.

The game will also be a special occasion for captain Kirk Tufuga. The No 8 will play his 25th game for Wai-Bush and will be presented with his blazer after the game.

Harwood praised his players for their initiative of giving money to the gate to allow the first 50 students into the game for free.

“What the players have done off their own back, and they did the same for the King Country game, where they donated money themselves over the gate to allow people to come through for free.

“The boys are doing it because they understand the importance of community rugby and it’s been completely led by the players. I think that’s great.”

Wairarapa-Bush team to play Horowhenua-Kapiti at Carterton today: Tafa Tafa, Inia Katia, Teihana Brown, Nikora Ewe, Soli Malatai, Sam Morison, Lee Thomson, Kirk Tufuga [captain], Johan van Vliet, Tavita Isaac, Sam Gammie, Peter Beech, Lewis Bush, James Pakoti, Max Tufuga.

Reserves: Tekii Terongo, Tupou Lea’aemanu, Tom McKay, Joe Tako, Cameron Ravenwood, Leo Eneliko Nick Birchfield.

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