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Wai-Bush building up for a win

Captain Johan van Vliet, centre, will play his 50th first-class game for Wai-Bush. PHOTOS/FILE.


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A win! “I want us to be in front.”

Wai-Bush coach Mark Rutene, left, says home win tonight is on the cards

That’s the expectation for Farriers Wairarapa-Bush coach Mark Rutene as the team seek their first victory of the Heartland Championship at Trust House Memorial Park tonight.

The home side go into their first home game since the 10-42 opening round loss to Thames Valley three weeks ago when they played most of the second half with 13 players.

That was followed by two losses on the road, the first to South Canterbury [17-61], and an improved effort last Saturday away to Whanganui, where the team picked up their first competition point in the 18-22 defeat.

“Every week we’ve been getting better and particularly against Whanganui, we played really well for long periods, held on to the ball, smashed into rucks, and our tackling was good,” said Rutene.

“We just need to keep building on that, and I’m confident that we’ve shown enough improvement.

“To get the win, we’re going to need a bit of luck, but we’re playing better rugby, and we’re playing for each other.

“What really impressed us last week was that we were down by 10 points, and we got that last try, and that went multiple phases, so they worked hard for each other.”

Injuries have hampered Wai-Bush’s build-up for tonight’s game, with winger-centre Tristan Flutey [ankle], and prop Tupou Lea’aemanu [calf] almost certain to miss the game. Former All Black Zac Guildford, a last-minute withdrawal from the Whanganui match, is a doubtful starter with a calf strain.

Should Guildford not recover in time, the experienced Tipene Haira will slip into second-five, with Paddy Gluck coming on to the bench.

Stan Wright, centre, on the charge for Leinster in 2008. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

Lea’aemanu’s injury has seen a call-up for former Cook Islands international prop Stan Wright, who at the age of 43, will go down as one of the oldest players to play first-class rugby in New Zealand, although he is still two years shy of the legendary All Black fullback George Nepia, who played a first-class match at the age of 45.

Wright does come with an impressive resume, having played 94 games for Leinster in Ireland, 57 for Stade Francais, and 54 for Narbonne in a lengthy professional career.

Wright last played for Wai-Bush in the Heartland Championship in 2016, and although not as mobile as he once was, Rutene said the big prop can bring stability to the scrum and add experience in the latter stages of the game.

Promising Carterton winger Fiula Tameilau has also been called onto the bench after some good form for the Hurricanes Under-20s.

“He’s had some recent rugby, and he will fit in well. I know we’ve got a couple of injuries which doesn’t help, but things are starting to get into place and if we can get a bit of luck on our side, and it’s a home game, so there’s no reason why we can’t win.”

The match will also mark a special milestone for captain and openside flanker Johan van Vliet. The former Dutch international will bring up his 50th first-class appearance for the side.

Mid Canterbury have two wins and a loss so far with their most impressive effort a 24-17 defeat of Whanganui at home two weeks ago. They lost 20-32 at home to North Otago last week.

Like the other opponents, Wai-Bush have faced this season, Mid Canterbury will have a significant size advantage.

“They’ve got a good front row and some quite exciting Fijians in their team,” Rutene said.

“Their No 8 [Seta Koroitamana] is pretty special, and they have a big 6-foot-4 Fijian winger [Raituba Vasurakuta]. They like to move the ball around and they offload, so we need to knock them over and make sure we cover the offloads. But there are opportunities within how they play to attack, and we’ll be looking to do that.”

The game will kick off at the unusual time of 6pm because of Mid Canterbury’s travel arrangements.

Memorial Park will be open for spectators, who must adhere to covid-19 protocols of one-metre social distancing, QR scanning, and wear masks.

The match will also be live-streamed on the Wai-Bush Facebook page.

Probable Wairarapa-Bush team

Tafa Tafa, Soli Malatai, Ueta Tufuga, Zac Guildford/Tipene Haira, Moomoo Falaniko, Sam Morison, Isaac Bracewell, Sam Gammie, Johan van Vliet [captain], BJ Campbell, Vesi Luatua, Andrew McLean, Lewis Bush, Henry Wilson, Jeramiah Mapasua.

Replacements: Terongo Tekii, Stan Wright, Dominic Herlihy, Matt Perry, Daryl Pickering, Tipene Haira/Paddy Gluck, Fiula Tameilau.


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