Wairarapa-Bush v Manawatu Evergreens
Trust House Memorial Park 2.30pm
Copthorne Wairarapa-Bush coach Reece Robinson is taking an experimental approach to tomorrow’s Heartland warmup game against a strong Evergreens lineup.
Robinson plans to start with what the coaching staff believe is the strongest XV and make wholesale changes at halftime to give most of the squad ample game time.
The tried and true combination of Tupou Lea’aemanu, Terongo Tekii, and Stan Wright Jnr has been given the first crack in the front row while Tom Campbell and co-captain Sam Gammie start at lock, Logan Wakefield is at number six, Inia Katia is on the openside, and Isireli Biumaiwai packs down at No. 8
Greytown’s nippy Sam Walton-Sexton has been named at halfback, with Ben Brooking at first-five and Tafa Tafa and Fiula Tameilau in the midfield. Veteran Nathan Hunt and Nikora Ewe are on the wings, and Aseri Waqa is in the custodian role.
There is an inexperienced second-half front row comprising Martinborough props Ty Waight and Tom Woelders on either side of abrasive East Coast rake George Parke.
Campbell is joined by Malakai Biumaiwai in the middle row for the final 40 minutes, while Jared Hawkins, Himiona Haira, and Epeli Rayaqayaqa make up the loose forward trio.
Player of origin Isaac Bracewell fills the halfback role, with Tipene Haira at first-five, Ben Brooking and Harry Eschenbach in the midfield, and Tameilau, Ewe, and Freddie Eschenbach forming the back three.
An interesting omission from both sides is Lewis Bush. Robinson said the solid scrummager and ball runner will get plenty of game time.
“Lewis Bush will probably get a bit of time at tighthead and hooker during the game, and we’re probably going to look at him as our third hooker, and he’ll get minutes there in the game, and moving forward, that could be a positional change for him,” Robinson said.
Sitting out the game with niggling injuries are loose forward Marcus Ale, first-five Jack Eschenbach and midfielders Andre Taylor and Cyrus Baker.
Robinson anticipates a tough challenge against Evergreens, effectively a Manawatu B side that went through the 2022 season unbeaten.
“When you look at the Turbos squad, they’ve only picked 10 players from club rugby, so the rest of those players who have been performing over there in club rugby will be playing for the Evergreens.
“They’ll be an extremely strong side, so for us, it’s about putting to work what we’ve done at training and put that on the field.”
Although a win would be the ideal outcome for Robinson, he said the result is irrelevant.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to look at combinations, introduce plays that we have been working on and to see players play out of position. No positions are cemented, so the individuals have to perform.”
The first-year coach will also have a keen eye on the Wai-Bush Barbarians, who play New Zealand Marist Colts in the curtain-raiser on the artificial turf, with the Heartland campaign just two weeks away.
“The Baabaas are going to be the feeding group through to the Heartland group, and at some stage, I’m going to have a chat with the Barbarians about the importance of the players performing well week in and week out.
“I know there are a lot of disappointed players missing out on the Heartland group, but if they perform well down there and we get injuries, there will be opportunities to come up. They’ve got a really strong group, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them play NZ Marist Colts.”
Forwards – Tupou Lea’aemanu, Terongo Tekii, Stan Wright Jnr, Tom Campbell, Sam Gammie [captain], Logan Wakefield, Inia Katia, Isireli Biumaiwai
Backs – Sam Walton-Sexton, Ben Brooking, Tafa Tafa, Fiula Tameilau, Nathan Hunt, Nikora Ewe, Aseri Waqa
Forwards – Ty Waight, George Parke, Tom Woelders, Malakai Biumaiwai, Tom Campbell, Jared Hawkins, Himiona Haira, Epeli Rayaqayaqa
Backs – Isaac Bracewell, Tipene Haira, Ben Brooking, Harry Eschenbach, Fiula Tameilau, Nikora Ewe, Freddie Eschenbach