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Zac’s back, with eight new faces

Moomoo Falaniko [with ball] returns to the Wai-Bush squad after missing the 2020 season. PHOTO/FILE


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Wai-Bush head coach Mark Rutene. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

Farriers Wairarapa-Bush coach Mark Rutene is excited with the talent he has seen in club rugby, and that’s reflected in the make-up of his first squad of the season.

But he’s also included former All Black Zac Guildford, who will wear the union’s colours for the first time since 2016, when he played nine representative games.

Guildford, who returned to the region this year and is playing for Greytown, will bring experience and an x-factor to the midfield.

Rutene and assistant coaches Brent Wilson and Nathan Riwai-Couch have named a 25-strong squad to prepare for the traditional Queen’s Birthday weekend clash with Hawke’s Bay Saracens in Masterton.

“We always thought we would have a few new faces or young ones in there to see how they perform at a higher level, so there are some young fellas in there and a mixture of older fellas as well,” Rutene said.

Locks Dominic Herlihy [Greytown] and former Mid-Canterbury representative Vesi Luatua [Eketahuna], Martinborough loose forward Jake Goodger, and Marist hooker Henry Wilson are the newcomers in the forwards.

Eketahuna lock Vesi Luatua [with ball] is a newcomer in the Wai-Bush squad. PHOTOS/JADE CVETKOV
In the backs, outside backs Aseri Waqa and Aisea Sakapo from Carterton, Eketahuna’s Matt Raleigh, and Martinborough second-five Te Awhiorangi Aranui are fresh faces . However, the latter’s involvement could be in doubt after he limped off with what looked like a serious leg injury in Martinborough’s loss to Eketahuna.

“We’ll see how Te Awhiorangi progresses, he’s got a league background, and he’s a big boy. I’m quite excited, if he’s fit, to see how he goes,” Rutene said.

“We took a long time to pick the backs, and guys such as Robbie Anderson are still definitely in the frame, but we wanted to have a look at some of these younger guys.

“There are a lot of good backs around at the moment.

“Tristan Flutey is playing good rugby, and Aseri Waqa, Matt Raleigh, Moomoo Falaniko are playing well, and Inia [Katia] is the spark in the Carterton backline.”

Rugged Greytown loose forward Eddie Cranston, who returns after a four-year absence from the side, has been rewarded for his good form, as have Goodger and Luatua, who showed glimpses of their potential in the Martinborough-Eketahuna game on Saturday.

Only three specialist props have been named – Lewis Bush [Greytown], Tupou Lea’aemanu [Carterton], and Jeramiah Mapusua [Marist]. Teronga Tekii [Carterton], and Wilson will fill the hooker’s role.

Tristan Flutey has been in outstanding form for Martinborough.

Rutene said several players were unavailable for the long weekend match because of personal or work commitments, but they would be in the mix for the Heartland Championship.

Key absentees include in-form Eketahuna loose forward/prop Sam Gammie, former Tongan international prop Tolu Fahamokioa, and experienced Greytown loose forward Tavita Isaac.

Rutene was looking forward to seeing the team in action after returning to the head-coach role, he previously held from 2011-14.

“It’s been a few years away from it for me, and I’m pretty excited with what I have seen at club rugby and the talent that is spread around.”

Wai-Bush squad to play Hawke’s Bay on Queen’s Birthday Weekend

Forwards: Peter Beech [Marist], Lewis Bush [Greytown], BJ Campbell [Eketahuna], Eddie Cranston [Gladstone], Jake Goodger [Martinborough], Dominic Herlihy [Greytown], Ryan Knell [Gladstone], Tupou Lea’aemanu [Carterton], Vesi Luatua [Eketahuna], Jeramiah Mapusua [Marist], Terongo Tekii [Carterton], Johan van Vliet [Eketahuna], Henry Wilson [Marist].

Backs: Te Awhiorangi Aranui [Martinborough], Nikora Ewe [Pioneer], Moomoo Falaniko [Greytown], Tristan Flutey [Martinborough], Zac Guildford [Greytown], Tipene Haira [Martinborough], Inia Katia [Carterton], Sam Morison [Carterton], Daryl Pickering [Carterton], Matt Raleigh [Eketahuna], Aisea Sakapo [Carterton], Aseri Waqa [Carterton].

Unavailable: Sam Gammie, Tavita Isaac, Bryan Arnold, Chris Hemi, James Pakoti, Cameron Ravenwood, Francis Muller, Tolu Fahamokioa.

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