The chance to represent Wairarapa Maori on home soil is a “massive” motivator for players at this weekend’s Te Tini a Maui Maori Rugby Tournament in Masterton.
And nowhere is that more relevant than for the women’s team, according to their coach Hera Edwards.
Up against the might of Manawatu, Wairarapa-Bush face a huge challenge in defending their 2016 title. Manawatu is the powerhouse of central New Zealand women’s rugby boasting a rich and proud heritage. Several of the current crop of players are in the national side.
Just who they will send over to Masterton is a bit of a lottery, but make no mistake, our girls will be ready for them, Edwards says.
“They have got some real superstars, but we are not daunted by that. We love this type of challenge.”
Edwards says to play at home, in front of family and whanau, is “massive” for the local girls.
It is also a fantastic opportunity to showcase Maori rugby, particularly women’s.
“We’ve produced some great players over the years, and Manawatu have heaps of stars, so it is going to be awesome for everybody to see what us girls are capable of.”
One player to watch will be No.8 Perri Tatana-Williams, fresh back from having twins.
“She is one outstanding player and we are really stoked to have her back playing.”
Packing down in what will be a reasonably experienced forward pack are Tipene sisters Sam and Kahli, two very useful players.
Edwards says matching Manawatu upfront and on defence will be vital if Wairarapa-Bush is to defeat Manawatu.
“There is a lot of young blood in the backs, so for those girls it is going to be a huge jump, but we’ve got some legs out there is so look out.”
The women’s games kicks off on on the No.1 ground at Trust House Memorial Park at 10am on Saturday.
Wairarapa-Bush men’s coach Steve Thompson says their preparation has been a little bit disruptive, further complicated by injuries to key players James Goodger and Regan Pope. Both men are carrying calf injuries with Thompson not expected to make a call on their fitness until later in the week, perhaps even game day.
The men face Te Matau (Hawke’s Bay) at 11.25am on Saturday morning. Win that and they will square off against the winner of Manawatu or Horouta (East Coast) on Sunday (12.30pm) for a crack at promotion to the A-division. If they lose on Saturday it will be a case of playing for pride against the other losing B-grade team at 10am on Sunday.
Wairarapa-Bush Under-18 have a busy Saturday with two matches, against Manawatu City in the morning (10am) and Manawatu Country in the afternoon (4.30pm).
In the men’s A-grade, defending champions Te Upoko o the Ika (Wellington) take on Horowhenua-Kapiti at midday on Saturday, with the match between Taranaki and Whanganui kicking off at 2pm. The A-grade final is on Sunday at 1.45pm, the last match of the tournament.
All up their are 13-matches in the tournament, either being played at Trust House Memorial Park or at Marist No.1 & No.2 grounds. Teams come from the Hurricanes Franchise catchment and also Taranaki. The Te Tini a Maui Maori Rugby Tournament has been running since 1987.
by Walt Dickson