The Jeremy David Trophy in Gisborne on Saturday will take on added significance for Farriers Wairarapa-Bush.
Injury and unavailability has ruled out several players, and with the match being just one of two hit-outs before the Heartland Championship kicks off, time in play is at a premium.
Head coach Joe Harwood says the annual fixture with Poverty Bay will be crucial for his players to “build partnerships” and “gel together as a team”.
“To be honest, we’re just looking forward to getting the team out on the field and playing some footy,” Harwood says.
“At this stage, the most important thing is that we focus on doing the basics well.”
It will also be a good opportunity for individual players to “put their hands up” and stake a claim for a spot in the playing-22 for the competition opener against Wanganui on Saturday 26 August.
One of those players will be blind-side flanker Chaz Matthews who gets a start following the withdrawal of James Goodger. The Marist utility forward – the 2016 Club Player of the Year – has been ruled for the rest of the season because of a re-occurring shoulder injury.
Harwood says Goodger’s talent and leadership make him a “massive loss”, but it gives an exciting opportunity for someone else to step up and fill his spot.
Also getting a start is Wellington-based prop Gerard Faitotoi, the only loan player in the team. The 22-year old from the Norths club has been drafted in after ex-Wairarapa based Sam Tufuga was called in the Manawatu squad.
Harwood says Faitotoi is a “big ball carrier” and his grunt and power could be crucial against a team like Poverty Bay.
Greytown prop Nick Hohepa is unavailable for the trip north.
Carterton hooker Hone Vella is a late selection as the number two hooker, behind James Pakoti.
The versatile Eddie Cranston is captaining the team, playing at open-side flanker. Pressing hard for some game time will be Martinborough number seven Chris Raymond, one of the form players in the premier club competition this year.
Harwood says, a real positive at trainings has been the level of intensity with players putting their hands up for selection.
One area that will be closely scrutinised on Saturday will be the half-back first-five eighth combination of Piri Weepu and Sam Monaghan.
Harwood says Weepu’s influence at training has been “fantastic” with both the players and also coaches feeding off the former-All Black’s knowledge and skill set.
“We feel very lucky to have him on board,” Harwood says.
|Venue:||More FM Rugby Park||Date:||12/08/2017|
|Home Team:||Poverty Bay||Visiting Team:||Farriers.Wairarapa.Bush|
|Team:||Farriers Wairarapa Bush|
|Loan Player||Loan||Use abbreviation and state lending Union||Loan – Auckland|
|Overseas Player||Overseas||Use abbreviation||Overseas|
|Returning NZ Player||Returning||Use abbreviation||Returning|
|Local Player||Local||Use abbreviation and state the club the player is registered with||Local – Petone|
|3||Gerard||Faitotoi||Tighthead Prop||Loan – Wellington|
|10||Sam||Mongahan||First Five Eight||Eketahuna|
|13||Cyrus||Baker||Centre||Origin – Manawatu|
|REPLACEMENTS IN ORDER FROM HOOKER TO FULLBACK|