Yellows v students looks best battle of opening day
Feilding Yellows, with their new layers of depth, have been turning heads on the eve of the start of club rugby tomorrow.
First up they play Varsity who won both round-robins, the Jubilee Cup and Centennial Shield and were Hankins Shield runnersup.
The game has been delayed until 3.15pm because of Frank Oliver's funeral.
While the Yellows have had new talent queuing up, such as Wellington halfback Kayne Hammington, like almost everyone they have a slew of injuries.
After Cyclone Lusi bypassed Manawatu, the bone-hard grounds haven't helped. For instance their new hooker from Canterbury, Harry Jones, is out for up to six weeks with a broken wrist.
And they haven't got five-eighths Paora Rakatau (Waikato) and Turbo Nathan George (in Spain).
Manawatu flanker Heiden Bedwell-Curtis won't leave his Inglewood club in Taranaki until the second round.
As coach Kelvin Tantrum said, everyone is in the same boat with injuries.
"When you're coaching a team you think you're the only team with any injuries," he said.
It would have been no surprise to have seen Chiefs loose forward Nick Crosswell pulling on the black and yellow tomorrow. He didn't go with the Chiefs to South Africa and was not in their development XV in Palmerston North today.
There have been a flurry of phone calls, but it is more likely Crosswell might be available next week or the week after.
Varsity won't be at full noise tomorrow either with Sam Healy out for the season (shoulder), hooker Nick Grogan overseas and Hurricanes development players Callum Gibbins and Nehe Milner-Skudder not named, although Hamish Northcott will start at second five.
Manawatu No 8 James Oliver is out after shoulder surgery, probably until the second round.
Big Horowhenua-Kapiti prop Robin Praat should beef up the tighthead side for the students alongside Turbos hooker Rob Foreman.
These two teams last met in the championships semifinals when Varsity snuck home 26-24 after Yellows stormed back from 21-0 down. Feilding last beat Varsity at the start of the 2009 season, but Feilding haven't won in 10 games since.
Yellows still have the irrepressible Brad Carr. They were having an even pre-season game against Linton Army recently until Tantrum sent on Carr.
None of the other three matches tomorrow is likely to be close.
Kia Toa were so bruised by being ambushed by Te Kawau at Rongotea last year (22-10) they surely won't drop their guard again.
College OB beat Feilding Old Boys-Oroua 81-0 in their pre-season game. COB can do that to young sides, but the Stags should be more courageous tomorrow.
Old Boys-Marist appeal as another team who have solidified. They too have had players undergo surgery but should still cope with Freyberg whose depth will be exposed if injuries hit them.