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Robinson keen to repay faithful

Mid Canterbury vs Wairarapa Bush
2pm Ashburton
Playing for the community and paying back their support!

That’s the message from Copthorne Wairarapa Bush coach Reece Robinson as the team heads to Ashburton for their vital last-round Heartlands clash against Mid Canterbury with a home semifinal on the line.

A win with a bonus point for scoring four tries would secure a semifinal next week at Trust House Memorial Park, whereas a loss would leave their destiny out of their hands, but Robinson is determined to return home with a playoff spot locked in.

“The community have been fantastic throughout the season, and I think for myself personally and for the local community, it will be fantastic, especially a semifinal in the Lochore Cup,” Robinson said.

“This is BJ’s territory, and it would be quite fitting to be able to get a home semi, and then all going well, we’ll have a crack at winning the Brian Lochore Cup.”

Firstly, though, the Wai Bush players must overcome their away hoodoo, which has seen them lose all three games on the road, including gifting Horowhenua-Kapiti and Buller their first wins of the championship.

Robinson said it’s difficult to pinpoint why the team have struggled away from Memorial Park but feels that individual nutrition could be part of the problem and the players need to stick with what they do at home rather than eating snack food, adding that individual preparation in all aspects is paramount heading into the crunch game.

“If we want a home semi and if we’re really keen and give the community what they want, we need to perform well, and they need to prepare the best they can to get the result.”

On the field, that starts with defence, and there were some encouraging signs against Whanganui last week despite the 36–18 scoreline. The “Green and Reds” spent long periods camped in their own half, only for the weight of possession and territorial advantage to tell in the end.

Wai Bush have also been dogged by slow starts in several of the games and have leaked points nearing halftime, with Whanganui a good example, scoring in the opening 10 minutes and then scoring three converted tries in a 10-minute period either side of halftime and Robinson said they could not afford another repeat against the attack-minded Mid Canterbury.

“We need to start and finish both halves really well, and that’s probably been our letdown in the last couple of weeks, and that’s a big focus for us this week. Making sure we carry well and defend well, and when the game starts loosening up, we earn the right to go wide.

“I believe from the performance last week, if we can build from that, the result will go our way.”

Mid Canterbury come into the game on the back of a 50-35 loss to championship leaders and traditional rivals South Canterbury, a game they led for long periods and showed some attacking prowess but also some defensive frailties, which Robinson plans to exploit.

“Watching their defence, they’re really disconnected, so there are opportunities for teams to exploit that, and that’s something we definitely intend to do, but when you look at it, they’ve scored some bloody good tries,” he said.

“They’re a really good team at the breakdown; they like to attack every breakdown, so we have to make sure we’re really focused and look after our ball. Ball security is going to be important.

“Defence is going to win us the game – we’ve got to throw the kitchen sink at it, and we’ve got to treat this as our last game to earn the right to have a semifinal, and we’ll reassess after that and focus on whatever game we have ahead of us, and ideally it will be a home semifinal.

“I will always back my boys. I think we have an extremely strong squad, and we’ve got good depth.”

Robinson has made three changes to the backline for tomorrow, with experienced second-five Tafa Tafa and powerful winger Charles Mataitai returning from injury, while veteran Tipene Haira moves to fullback in place of the injured Aseri Waqa.

The forward pack remains the same as the eight that started against Whanganui. The only change on the forwards’ bench is 43-year-old loose forward Tana Isaac, who hopefully will make his Wai Bush debut after being a late withdrawal in the loss to Horowhenua-Kapiti.

The game will be livestreamed on the Mid Canterbury Facebook page with kickoff at 2pm.

In other regional rugby news, promising Wairarapa Wahine Toa flanker Xanthe Somerville has been named in the New Zealand U18 Nga Mareikura girls’ squad. The selection caps a strong season for Somerville, who stood out for the Wahine Toa, Wai-Bush Heartland senior women, Manawatu Development XV, Manawatu U18 and was named the MVP at the Hurricanes U18 Girls Tournament.

Kuranui College and Wai Bush U18 player Zach Ratuki was also named in the NZ Fiji Schools wider training group.

Probable Wai Bush team:
Forwards –
Tupou Lea’aemanu, Sase Va’a, Stan Wright Jnr, Sam Gammie [captain], Logan Wakefield, Jared Hawkins, Inia Katia, BJ Campbell.

Backs – Isaac Bracewell, Andre Taylor, Charles Mataitai, Tafa Tafa, Fiula Tameilau, Hayden Cooper, Tipene Haira.

Forwards –
Lewis Bush, Ty Waight, Tom Woelders, Matt Perry, Tana Isaac

Backs – Sam Walton-Sexton, Ben Brooking, Harry Eschenbach

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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