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Fitness and ill-discipline hurt Wai-Bush: Rutene

Aseri Waqa scores the first of his three tries against Buller. PHOTOS/JADE CVETKOV


Retiring Wai-Bush coach Mark Rutene. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

Fitness and discipline were two key reasons for a disappointing Heartland campaign for Farriers Wairarapa-Bush, which ended on Saturday with an entertaining and convincing 55-39 defeat of Buller at Trust House Memorial Park.

That’s according to coach Mark Rutene, whose second tenure in charge of Wai-Bush finished with a satisfying conclusion to an otherwise below-par season.

“A pretty tough season for us obviously, we only won two games, we had quite a few injuries, and probably our fitness wasn’t there, yeah, so it was disappointing,” Rutene said

“Fitness was one of the biggest. We seemed to suffer a lot of injuries, and we were up to almost 40 players, and discipline cost us in nearly every game, there would’ve been 20 penalties against us on Saturday.”

Rutene highlighted the brevity of the club competition, in which the eight premier teams contested a ‘Town and Country’ series of three games for the Lane Penn Trophy, followed by a seven-round championship plus playoffs for the Chris ‘Moose’ Kapene Memorial Cup, as a potential reason for the lack of conditioning with some of the players.

“Our club competition is probably not that intense, and it doesn’t go for long. A lot of clubs only trained once a week this year, and that’s not conducive to having a really good strong rep team.

“It’s a tough one with club competitions, and I don’t know how you fix it.”

The lack of big ball-running players also worked against the side, with four of their eight games impacted by wet weather and played in heavy conditions.

“We’re probably a dry weather team, and we can’t smash through a line because we don’t have the big ball-running players.

Charles Mataitai, with ball, and Sami Siaosi, in support, are two of the promising players for Wai-Bush.

“Saturday suited us because we could use the ball a bit instead of big ball carriers smashing through the line and unfortunately this year we had a lot of wet weather rugby.”

Six imports were used throughout the season, but only player of origin Tafa Tafa, who was outstanding at second-five, and first-five Aidan Champion managed to nail down regular spots, and Rutene felt they did not get the players they wanted in the right areas.

However, he was thrilled with the potential of some of the young players, in particular, the exciting outside backs – Aseri Waqa [fullback], who capped the season with his first representative hat-trick on Saturday, wingers Soli Malatai and Charles Mataitai, and the versatile Tristan Flutey.

“Aseri has certainly got some talent and he’s dangerous every time he gets the ball. Soli and Tristan are still reasonably young and Fiula on the other wing and Charles Mataitai, there’s a whole lot of talent there, we just need a bit of experience around them in key positions.

“In the forwards, you’ve got [props] Tupou [Lea’aemanu], he’s sharp, Stan Wright Jnr is coming up, and [hooker] Sam Siaosi if he got fit he would be outstanding, but he was pretty good this year, and we had a few old heads in James Goodger, Andrew Smith, and Eddie Cranston, they stood up.

“They were a tight team, there was a good culture and that, but unfortunately you’re judged on your results which is fair enough, and we just didn’t get the results, but if we had a few more games go our way it would’ve been a different story.”

Work commitments mean Rutene won’t coach next year, but he is not ruling out returning to the fray in the future.

Rutene first coached Wai-Bush in 2011, finishing 10th with just one win in the Heartland Championship. Meads Cup semifinal spots followed in 2012 and 2013, before an 11th placing in 2014.

Before picking up the reins again, Rutene coached the NZ Heartland XV and was assistant coach for Horowhenua-Kapiti in their 2018 Lochore Cup victory, beating Wai-Bush in the final.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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