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Isaac gets a go at 42

Horowhenua-Kapiti vs Wairarapa-Bush – 2pm Levin Domain

Greytown loose forward Tana Isaac is set to become the oldest debutant in the green and red of Wairarapa-Bush when he takes the field against Horowhenua-Kapiti tomorrow.

Isaac, who turns 43 this month, has been named on the bench and when he runs out onto Levin Domain, it will be 22 years since he last tasted first-class rugby as a winger for Manawatu against Hawke’s Bay, a side which included Copthorne Wairarapa-Bush coach Reece Robinson.

However, Isaac will be hoping for better luck than that appearance in 2021, which ended in agony with a torn hamstring. It was a hamstring injury again which delayed his inclusion in the Heartland game day squad after he hobbled off during the club grand final against Carterton.

Isaac’s selection comes following the loss of Marcus Ale to a leg injury, with veteran Jared Hawkins starting at blindside flanker, one of two starting changes in the forward pack.

The other is Lewis Bush, who gets his first start of the Heartland Championship at tighthead prop relegating Stan Wright Jnr to the bench.

Sase Va’a, a hooker from Manawatu club Kia Toa who played three games for Horowhenua-Kapiti in 2022, has been called in by Robinson and will start on the bench.

The backline is the same that started in last week’s 30-24 win over Poverty Bay, with the only change on the bench being veteran utility back Tipene Haira, who comes in for the injured Harry Eschenbach.

There is also no possibility of seeing former Hurricane Andre Taylor on the field for Wai-Bush again after he decided to concentrate on his assistant coaching role.

Although satisfied with the victory over Poverty Bay, their second in three games, Robinson is looking for more improvement and for the players to express themselves.

“We want to play really direct and we feel if we play our own game and can get some good forward momentum, we will create opportunities for us and put us in contention to score so nothing changes on the way we’re going to play,” Robinson said. “I’m just hoping that we can probably execute better, look up and look at the opportunities we have in front of us at times instead of probably kicking it, so it’s just playing what’s in front of us.”

Horowhenua-Kapiti have endured a horror start to the championship, suffering three heavy defeats and sit at the bottom of the table without registering a point, but Robinson is reading little into that record.

“Even though they haven’t been performing too well we can’t take any team lightly in this Heartland competition and they look like they’re probably struggling a little bit, however, they’re one of our bogey teams and travelling over there on the day is not ideal but it is what it is and we just have to adapt,” he said.

The Horowhenua-Kapiti strength is in the forwards, led by captain and lock Ryan Shelford, who has a remarkable 110 caps for the province, while No. 8 Callum Watts-Pointer poses a threat with ball in hand.

“They’re going to be tough, they’ve got some experienced campaigners and their forwards look quite big, and they’re probably missing a bit of youth, but they’ve got some exciting backs.”

The green and reds won’t lack for support with a Supporters Club bus heading to Levin and a party bus comprising many of Robinson’s family and friends from Palmerston North travelling to the game.

Wairarapa-Bush team:

Forwards – Tupou Lea’aemanu, George Parke, Lewis Bush, Sam Gammie [captain], Logan Wakefield, Jared Hawkins, Inia Katia, Isireli Biumaiwai.

Backs – Isaac Bracewell, Ben Brooking, Tafa Tafa, Fiula Tameilau, Charles Mataitai, Nikora Ewe, Aseri Waqa.

Substitutes:

Forwards – Sase Vaa, Stan Wright Jnr, Tom Woelders, Tana Isaac, Epeli Rayaqayaqa
Backs – Sam Walton-Sexton, Cyrus Baker, Tipene Haira

WOMEN

Wairarapa-Bush vs Thames Valley – 2.30pm

Wairarapa-Bush coach Scott Collins is under no illusions of the importance of tomorrow’s game against the Thames Valley Vixens at Trust House Memorial Park.

Wai-Bush slipped to third in the North Island Heartland Woman’s Championship after their 40-17 loss to Whanganui last Saturday

“Not getting a bonus point last week hurt us, and we’re under no illusions of what we need to do,” Collins said.

“It is essentially a turning point game for us and we welcome King Country next weekend and then we have a big away match with Poverty Bay in Wairoa, so if we win it sets us up quite nicely to hopefully build on.”

While a win over Thames Valley would keep Wai-Bush on target for the top two and a place in the final in Taupo in three weeks, a loss would severely dent their chances.

Wai-Bush will be without centre Eleina Heggie and first-five Lisa Te Moananui, while prop Annemieke van Vliet is doubtful with a shoulder injury.

However, the return of Monique Kloeg bolsters the middle row, and the talented Levonia Fuamui comes into the midfield after missing the opening two rounds.

Collins expects Thames Valley to play a similar style to East Coast, with a big set of forwards who like to rumble the ball forward.

“We have to get the better upfront and then we can go wide, their backs are not quite as slick as Whanganui last week. I think we’ll get the win this week,” Collins concluded.

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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