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Rutene returns to Wai-Bush roots

Mark Rutene coaching the NZ Heartland XV. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES


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New Farriers Wairarapa-Bush coach Mark Rutene couldn’t resist the chance to get back in the hot seat and coach his home province for a second time.

On Friday, the Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union confirmed Rutene’s appointment on a two-year contract, along with assistant coaches, Brent Wilson [forwards], and Nathan Riwai-Couch [backs].

“I had a year off this year, and I really missed it,” Rutene said.

“I wanted to keep coaching, the opportunity was here, I’m still living here, and rugby is my passion. It’s great to be back in the hot seat.”

Rutene, who works for the Primary Industries Ministry in the Maori Agribusiness team, previously coached Wai-Bush for four seasons from 2011 to 2014, taking them to the Meads Cup semifinals in 2012 and 2013.

In the ensuing six years, Rutene had three years coaching with the New Zealand Heartland Under-19 team, two with the senior national Heartland side, and was assistant coach with the Horowhenua-Kapiti side who beat Wai-Bush in the 2018 Lochore Cup final.

The 52-year-old said those experiences have thrown up their different challenges.

“Particularly with the senior Heartland team you are challenged because the calibre of players is better and better the further you go, and with Horowhenua, it was a different experience as well,” he said.

“You’re just learning all the time as a coach, and I’ve picked up plenty over the last few years.”

Wai-Bush made the 2019 Meads Cup semifinals under the coaching of Joe Harwood, and Rutene said the aim was to go all the way and lift the supreme trophy in Heartland rugby.

“Everyone coaching in this competition wants to win the Meads Cup, and it will be my seventh year next year.”

“I’ve been in two Meads semis, and the union have been in five in the past eight years. We really want to get one over the line, and that’s the ultimate goal.

To be able to do that, the region needed a robust club competition, “so we’re happy to work with the club coaches and make sure that all the players who want to play rep rugby put their hands up”.

Rutene is keen to embrace the Wai-Bush policy of using only local players or players of origin, successfully implemented by Harwood.

He watched a few of the Wai-Bush games this year and felt there was depth in the backs and forwards but there would be some challenges to tackle.

“Already [utility back] Raniera Petersen is going to Australia. [No 8 and captain] Kirk Tufuga had a great year and ended up playing for the Manawatu Turbos, so whether he comes back next year, I don’t know.”

Forwards assistant coach Wilson brings 15 years of experience as a professional rugby player in the England premiership with Leicester, Newcastle, and Nottingham, and with North Harbour in the NPC.

A former Wairarapa College student, Wilson returned home in 2018 and played for Carterton and had two appearances as lock for Wai-Bush.

Backs assistant coach Riwai-Couch played 77 games in the green and red, and played in the champion Meads Cup team in 2006.

He coached Pioneer in the 2020 premier club championship.

Shay O’Gorman has been reappointed manager and Davide Castorina will continue as the team’s physiotherapist.

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