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Newcomers make good impression for Wai-Bush

By Gary Caffell
Wairarapa-Bush rugby coach Josh Syms knows the importance of his side developing a winning habit leading into the 2016 Heartland championship.
He is a strong believer in the adage that success breeds success and that’s why he was disappointed that Wairarapa-Bush conceded a late try from all of 80m out to lose 38-34 to the Taranaki development squad during a training camp at New Plymouth over the weekend.
“I know there was nothing on it but we have a philosophy that we want to win every game we play, and we should have won this one,” Syms said. “Basically all we had to do was kick the ball out and the game was over but we didn’t take that option and they scored a try. That’s not good enough.”
There was better news for Wairarapa-Bush in a second match they played against the Taranaki Maoris. Most of the younger and more inexperienced players in the squad were given the opportunity to show their paces and they managed to grind out a 38-26 victory.
Frustrated as he was at not securing two wins, Syms was pleased at the opportunity for him and fellow selectors James Bruce and Joe Harwood to assess the individual skills of squad members, several of whom have yet to play for the union at Heartland level. And he said there were many who put their hands up in a positive fashion and a few who didn’t quite live up to expectations.
“It was really helpful to see who could do a decent job for us and there were a lot of good signs in that respect,” he said.
Of the five players who are seeking “loan player” status for Heartland games none impressed more than John Ika, who played under Syms for the Auckland secondary schoolboys side and is now resident in the Tasman union. He started at halfback against the Taranaki development squad and made a huge impression with the quickness of his pass and his elusive running.
There was a lot to like too about the solidness in midfield of another possible Tasman recruit in Izaq Foa’l who used his bulk well in making several powerful surges while utility back Amryn Sanders, who is about to move from the Counties-Manukau area to live in Wairarapa, also shone. He has played for Thames Valley in the Heartland competition and was a member of the wider New Zealand sevens training squad.
Up front one of the more impressive players was hooker Abe Haira, who will fill the “State of Origin” spot for the Heartland campaign. He plays his club rugby in Taranaki.
Of the Wairarapa players it was yet another newcomer to the Wairarapa-Bush jersey Blake Knight from the Martinborough club who took the eye as a loose forward with the pace and assertiveness needed to shine in that department. Worth noting too was the work rate of Gladstone lock Andrew Smith, who has repped for Mid-Canterbury in the past, while Glen Walters, the Greytown utility back who was overseas last year, provided a timely reminder of his skills in the crucial first-five role.
The next assignment for Wairarapa-Bush comes on Saturday at Memorial Park in Masterton when they play fellow Heartland side Poverty Bay in their annual Jeremy David Memorial Trophy match. That game has first-class status and as such the Wairarapa-Bush squad will have to be reduced to just the 22 players, a task which Syms admits will be a difficult one.
“There’s going to a be few who are unlucky to miss out, that’s for sure,” he said.

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