By Gary Caffell
Their defensive structure will be put under the microscope when Wairarapa-Bush confronts Mid-Canterbury in a Heartland championship rugby match at Ashburton tomorrow.
Mid-Canterbury have clearly shown their hand in their 40-32 win over North Otago and narrow 32-34 loss to Buller, the latter coming when Buller first five-eighths James Lash successfully attempted a dropped goal in the very last minute of the game.
The southerners have plenty of bulk in their loose forwards and midfield backs and they focus on having them breach the advantage line before looking to spread the ball wide.
Against that sort of approach the sureness of the tackling becomes of paramount importance and while Wairarapa-Bush were better in that area in their win over Horowhenua-Kapiti last weekend than they were in the loss to King Country seven days earlier, there is still work to do, especially around the fringes of scrums and mauls.
Constantly calling an early halt to momentum there will be crucial to the end result.
It will be imperative too that Wairarapa-Bush provide a more stable platform at scrum time than they did last weekend.
Theirs is not a big pack by Heartland standards and, as a consequence, it makes sense they concentrate on a quick delivery of the ball to their halfback rather than hold it at the back so the No 8 can dictate proceedings.
Similarly the lineouts, the quicker Wairarapa-Bush move the ball away from the original point of contact the better for them.
Given a reasonable share of quality possession the Wairarapa-Bush backs could have a huge influence on the result of this match.
Mid-Canterbury might have the edge on them for physicality but for flair and pace they could struggle to contain the likes of John Ika, Zac Guildford and Sam Monaghan.
Those three all made a positive impact against Horowhenua-Kapiti where they often benefitted from the ability of second-five Iziq Foa’l to breach the first line of defence, and take at least a couple of defenders with him.
This is a game Wairarapa-Bush are capable of winning, make their tackles and they could leap frog their opponents on the Heartland championship table.
Mid-Canterbury are in fourth place with seven points and Wairarapa-Bush sixth-equal on 6s.
Wanganui and South Canterbury are joint leaders on 10 with King Country on 9, North Otago 7, Poverty Bay and Buller 6, Horowhenua-Kapiti 5, Thames Valley 3 and East Coast and West Coast 0.
Tomorrow’s draw is: Mid-Canterbury v Wairarapa-Bush, Thames Valley v King Country, North Otago v Horowhenua-Kapiti, Poverty Bay v Buller, Wanganui v South Canterbury, West Coast v East Coast.
The Wairarapa-Bush team is: Sam Monaghan; Cameron Hayton, Zac Guildford, Iziq Foa’l, Glen Walters; Tim Priest; John Ika; Sam Gammie; Eddie Cranston, Andrew McLean, Andrew Smith, James Goodger; Nick Hohepa, Abe Haira, Jacko Hull.Reserves: Inia Katia, Andy Humberstone, Corey McFadzean, Richard Puddy, Vaike Pororu, Liam Devine, Brendan Campbell.