Steelers squad showing depth
The Counties Manukau Steelers have been warned against taking Manawatu for granted in round six of the ITM Cup in Palmerston North tomorrow night.
The caution comes from coach Tana Umaga who says his team can't afford to get ahead of themselves against the wiley and hungry Turbos who are fighting to overcome a disappointing start to the season.
Umaga says the Steelers might be the best team in the championship division to date but they haven't secured themselves a place in the semifinals yet.
A win against Manawatu will clip their semifinal ticket but he says it's not going to be a stroll in the park.
"It's going to be difficult," he says.
"Manawatu are very difficult at home and they have a good record there.
"They're a side that's still capable of overturning an opponent. The form book doesn't mean much to them.
"We saw that at the weekend where Northland turned up Tasman and Southland turned up Hawke's Bay.
"In this competition you can't take anything for granted. There are no easy games. We've got to prepare as we do for every other game and make sure that we don't get ahead of ourselves."
Yet Umaga is confident that his side will stand up to anything Manawatu throws at them.
He says he saw a resilience he hadn't seen in the team before when they beat Otago 43-12 in Pukekohe last Friday.
And he's confident whoever takes the field for the Steelers tomorrow night will acquit themselves.
"The good that came out of the Otago game was our defence . . . apart from some of our our one-on-one tackles.
"Our scrambling defence worked well which shows that our systems are working.
"But I think the most pleasing aspect was our ability to come back. We went in not as sharp as we ought to have been. We had a lot of late withdrawals the day before so our preparations were a bit mixed and muddled.
"We started well in the first 10 minutes but then, as we knew they would, Otago came back and kept going and going. I think in the past when teams put pressure on us we might have fallen into our old ways.
"But I was proud of the way the boys came back in the second half. They stuck to our game and concentrated on the little things, showed patience and took our opportunities."
Umaga rates being able to overrun Otago without the experienced Mahonri Schwalger, DJ Forbes, Richard Lee and Ronald Raymaakers.
Efforts to create depth within the squad are starting to bear fruit, he says.