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Pride on the line for Wai-Bush

Aseri Waqa struggles to beat the South Canterbury defence. Getting the ball to the fleetfooted fullback and the other outside backs could be key to a Wai-Bush victory over Buller. PHOTOS/FILE

Goodger: Let’s end season well

RUGBY

Wairarapa-Bush v Buller, Trust House Memorial Park 2.30pm

Finishing a disappointing Heartland Championship campaign on a high and restoring some pride are the goals for Farriers Wairarapa-Bush captain James Goodger heading into today’s final game of the season.

Wai-Bush’s chances of making the Lochore Cup playoffs disappeared last Saturday with a 16-20 loss to East Coast in the mud and rain at Ruatoria, but they can still play a big part in determining the make-up for the semifinals by beating Buller.

Tristan Flutey, with the ball, has been outstanding since moving into centre.

The visitors are eighth in the championship and on target for the semifinals but have had an up-and-down season, with three wins and four losses, including three heavy defeats where they have conceded 50 points, most noticeably a 7-83 thumping at the hands of Whanganui, and a 10-73 hiding from North Otago.

Buller have the worst points differential in the championship at minus 154, compared with Wai-Bush’s minus 114. That would indicate a shaky defence, and Goodger is keen to get the ball wide to his dangerous outside back quartet of centre Tristan Flutey, wings Charles Mataitai and Fiula Tameilau, and fullback Aseri Waqa to expose any weaknesses.

“The artificial should suit us. We’ve been given a bit of a free licence this weekend to open up, and it’s supposed to be nice and dry for running footy, and we want to get the ball into our backs’ hands because they’re our threat. The forwards want to give them front foot ball as well,” Goodger said.

“Buller are in the same boat as us and have had some big scores against them. They’ll be like us and come out all guns blazing, and it will favour us at home being on the turf, but it will be tough.”

However, Goodger stressed that it’s vital the players concentrate on getting the basics right first, especially the lineouts after they lost six on their own throw against East Coast. He said if the forwards can get that right, they can avoid the slow starts and try to build a lead and gain some momentum in the first 20 minutes.

The veteran loose forward also said the one win-six loss record is not a true reflection of the ability in the team, and he is determined to put in a good performance for the loyal supporters.

“We’ve talked about that. We’ve certainly had the squad all season, and we’ve had a lot of injuries, but we’ve got quite a lot of depth as well. I think if we can gel, and I think it’s more of a psychological thing, instead of a physical or talented thing, but if we can get that mental edge we’ll definitely get up.”

Inia Katia will play his 101st game against Buller.

Today’s match is also likely to be the last for coach Mark Rutene, who is coming to the end of his second tenure in charge of the team, having coached the team from 2011-14 and the past two seasons, a point not lost on Goodger.

“We want to make him happy finishing. I think he won’t coach again, he’s put a lot into it, and it would be good to get up for him, and make him proud on our last game.”

The game could also be the last for several veterans in the Wai-Bush squad, notably, lock Andrew Smith, and 37-year-old flanker Jared Hawkins, who will bring up his 25th and blazer game, while Goodger, 34, is also uncertain about his playing future.

“I’m just taking it training by training at the moment. I keep breaking down unfortunately, but I would love to, and I haven’t ruled it out, but I’ve had so many injuries.”

Goodger also wants to end on a high note for his good friend Inia Katia, who reached his century in Ruatoria.

“It was a bit of a bummer we didn’t get up for Inia’s 100th game, but I’m really confident, and there are going to be some special things involving Inia because that was a hell of a milestone he brought up.”

There is only one change to the starting line-up, with halfback Daryl Pickering coming in for Sam Walton-Sexton, after missing last week’s game.

Although a Wai-Bush win would be a good morale booster for the players and the long-suffering supporters, it won’t be enough to plaster over the cracks of what has ultimately been a disjointed campaign, where the team have failed to fire and live up to their own high expectations.

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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