WAIRARAPA-Bush head coach Josh Syms cannot see the value in his team taking a safety first approach when they challenge Hawke’s Bay for domestic rugby’s most revered trophy, the Ranfurly Shield, in Napier on Thursday.
Rather the message from Syms to his players at a training camp over the weekend, was to have a “decent crack” whenever the opportunity arose in a game most pundits will see as little more than a walk in the park for the holders.
“Basically, we have empowered them to trust their instincts,” Syms said.
“If they see the chance to attack then attack, that’s pretty much the philosophy we want them to have.
“We know how difficult it is going to be but we can’t let them dictate how we play.
“We have to be creative and have a positive mindset from the word go.”
While the Wairarapa-Bush starting line-up will not be named until after tonight’s final training session, a couple of new faces from the Wellington region will be among them or, at the very least, on the reserve bench.
Strengthening areas which Syms had earlier said as lacking depth will be Hutt Old Boys Marist prop Rei Manaia and Petone midfield back Nick Grigg.
Whether they will remain on board for Heartland championship matches remains to be seen but Syms is confident they will do a good job for his side in the Shield game.
“They are talented guys and should slot in well,” he said.
“Obviously we’d have loved to fill the holes with locals but, frankly, we didn’t really have anywhere to go in that respect.”
For the Wairarapa-Bush forwards, Thursday’s match will be a battle of attrition with the powerful Hawke’s Bay eight sure to fancy their chances of dominating in all areas.
Winning their set piece ball will be hugely important for Wairarapa-Bush if they are to make any sort of game of it and there have to be question marks over their ability to do that at lineout and scrum.
At lineout, because the pressure will be on a couple of rookies, hookers Hamish Forrester and Kody Thompson, to consistently find their targets and, at scrum, because Hawke’s Bay are noted for their power in that department.
“The tighter areas of the forward game are going to be demanding, we know that,” Syms said.
“The big thing for us is to be competitive and I’m sure we will lack nothing on that score.”
Syms is optimistic his pack will make their presence felt in broken play situations and, when you consider the number of proven ball carriers in the squad, such optimism looks well founded.
Prop Kurt Simmonds, locks Lachie McFadzean and Andrew McLean and loosies James Goodger and Johnie McFadzean are all capable of featuring prominently away from the tighter stuff.
The impact the Wairarapa-Bush backs have on the Shield game in an attacking sense will very much depend on how much usable ball they get.
Syms is keen on them looking to impose themselves on their opposition which means the onus will be on the likes of Byron Karaitiana, Tipene Haira, Matt Dalley, Ryan Saunders and Nic Olson to be innovative whenever they get the opportunity to stretch their legs.
Thursday’s game will be particularly notable for first-five Tim Priest, who will not only be making his first-class debut for Wairarapa-Bush but will also have the responsibility of captain. He played for West Coast in the Heartland championship last year.
The Wairarapa-Bush squad is:
Forwards: Jacko Hull, Kurt Simmonds, Lance Graves, Rei Manaia, Hamish Forrester, Kody Thompson, Lachie McFadzean, Andrew McLean, Gareth Van Dalen, James Goodger, Johnie McFadzean, BJ Campbell, Brock Price.
Backs: Cody Whittaker, Inia Katia, Tim Priest, Byron Karaitiana, Matt Dalley, Tipene Haira, Nick Grigg, Ryan Saunders, Nick Olson, Corey McFadzean.
By Gary Caffell – Wairarapa Times-Age