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No lapses in defence vital

ALL POWER: Wairarapa-Bush No8 So'tala Fa'oso'o on the ball during the 45-5 win over East Coast last weekend.
ALL POWER: Wairarapa-Bush No8 So’tala Fa’oso’o on the ball during the 45-5 win over East Coast last weekend.

wanganui1waibushWAIRARAPA-Bush are leaving nothing to chance in the build-up to their season-defining Heartland championship rugby match with Wanganui at Memorial Park, Masterton, on Saturday.

The regular pattern of having two training sessions a week has been increased to three – Tuesday, tonight and tomorrow night – as they look to hone their tactics with the aim of achieving the win which could take them into the Meads Cup semifinals the next weekend.

“There’s a lot at stake for us in this game and it makes sense to treat it a little bit differently to the others,” head coach Josh Syms said. “We need to be on the ball mentally and physically.”

Whatever the result of Saturday’s match, Wairarapa-Bush will still be in contention for some silverware as the worst possible scenario has them qualifying first or second for the second-tier Lochore Cup competition with that match certain to be played at their Memorial Park headquarters.

Suggest to Syms, however, that this takes some of the pressure off his players leading into the Wanganui game and he is quick to reply that anything less than a spot in the Meads Cup semis will not be seen as good enough, even if it does mean having to travel to Timaru or Ashburton for that fixture.

“We’re all clear, it’s the Meads Cup we are after,” Syms said. “Win three more games in a row and it could be ours, and that’s what we’re focusing on.”

Adding to the importance of the occasion on Saturday is the fact the Bruce Steel Cup will be up for grabs. This trophy is played for between Wanganui, Horowhenua-Kapiti and Wairarapa-Bush and Wanganui became the holders when they defeated Horowhenua-Kapiti a few weeks back.

Syms and assistant coach Wayne Roache will not confirm their starting line-up until after tomorrow night’s training session but it is not expected to be much different from that for the East Coast match in Ruatoria last weekend, a match won by Wairarapa-Bush 45-5.

One suspects the two main question marks will hover over the loose forwards and the midfield backs.

All things being equal, the betting would be James Goodger and So’otala Fa’oso’o being part of the loose trio but the third spot is wide open with Chris Raymond returning from national Heartland under-19 duty to challenge Brendan Campbell, Rima Marurai and Johnie McFadzean. All four have been in good form and those who miss out are certainly going to be in the unlucky category.

As for the midfield backs there are a plethora of candidates, Andy Humberstone, Viliami Hala, Tipene Haira, Matt Dalley and even Paul Tikomainavalu, who has been a standout on the wing but has plenty of experience at centre.

There seems little doubt Syms and Roache will pay huge attention to their defensive capabilities when analysing which of these players should be given the nod. Wanganui have attacking talent to burn in their rearguard and if Wairarapa-Bush are to keep them in check they will need to make their first tackles count, something which has not always been the case this season.

“Defensively we need to get in their faces and restrict their space and time on the ball,” Syms said. “Any weaknesses and we will be in big trouble.”

Wanganui are something of a bogey team for Wai-Bush, having won the last six first-class games against them and losing only two of the last 10.

By Gary Caffell – Wairarapa Times-Age