Bitter blow for Makos
Canterbury have pulled the rug from under the Tasman Makos' feet heading into Friday night's Championship semifinal play-off against Otago at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin by recalling No 8 Jordan Taufua into their team.
The brilliant New Zealand under-20 rep has been one of the standout players in the Makos effort to reach the semifinals and now they don't have the loan player for the most crucial match of the season.
Makos coach Kieran Keane was obviously extremely unhappy with his former province's decision to pull Taufua into their team, as no doubt is his assistant coach Leon MacDonald, who like Keane donned the Canterbury jersey himself on many occasions.
However, Keane acknowledged Taufua was a loan player from Canterbury and recalling him at any stage was one of the clauses in his contract.
It does beg the question though. We are all supposed to be one happy family in the Crusaders region, helping one another out, and you would think that at this stage of the season, especially given the talent pool down south, that Canterbury would have developed enough depth in their squad to cover injuries.
It certainly looked that way as they rampaged through the last couple of weeks of the Premiership round-robin, annihilating everyone in their path.
What grates even more is the fact Taufua is unlikely to be starting and the recall will certainly not go down well in this neck of the woods.
Canterbury coach Tabai Matson did not return a phone call from The Marlborough Express yesterday but according to a report in The Press this morning, Canterbury have lost seven players to season-ending injuries, not including Colin Slade, but were hit particularly hard last weekend when both Matt Todd and Nasi Manu suffered serious injuries in the victory over Bay of Plenty. Manu is out for this weekend's match with Taranaki and the chances of Todd being fit are very slim. Matson has already dug deep into the barrel of players available from the Canterbury B and colts sides, but injuries there have also meant there was no other choice than to call back Taufua.
Tasman Rugby Union chief Andrew Flexman, although mindful of the loan agreement, was obviously disappointed with Taufua having to go.
"The reality is timing is everything and the reality for us is that it is a little bit disappointing. Jordan was placed in a difficult position. He had to honour the loan agreement but said he definitely wanted to stay with Tasman. If it wasn't for Tasman he wouldn't be signed for the Crusaders."
Flexman was surprised Canterbury did not have the depth to cover injuries without recalling Taufua, especially at this late stage of the season.
He said MacDonald, a former team-mate of Matson had asked him to reconsider, but he insisted they needed Taufua.
Injuries are also a significant factor in the Makos team for Friday night's game. Star wing Robbie Malneek is out after serious leg injuries sustained in Saturday's loss to North Harbour.
Former All Black prop Campbell Johnstone also wasn't considered due to injury, big blows after last week's drubbing. They face an uphill battle against an Otago team which comprehensively beat them in round-robin play.
There's a reshuffle in the forwards with Joe Wheeler switching from lock to blindside flanker and Tevita Koloamatangi going from six to eight. Shane Christie comes back into the starting XV after missing the North Harbour match through injury.
In the backs, James Lowe replaces Malneek on the left wing, with Mitchell Scott coming into the 22 for the first time this season, starting off the bench. Vernon Fredericks, a late addition to the bench last week, retains his position after Taufua's departure.
Tasman Makos: Tom Marshall, Peter Betham, Kieron Fonotia, Andrew Goodman (captain), James Lowe, Hayden Cripps, Jeremy Su'a, Tevita Koloamatangi, Shane Christie, Joe Wheeler, Riki Hoeata, Filipo Levi, Sam Prattley, Quentin MacDonald, Tim Perry. Subs: Francis Smith, Reuben Northover, Vernon Fredericks, Gary Redmond, Steve Alfeld, Mitchell Scott, Albert Nikoro.
- The Marlborough Express
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