Makos coaches want players to show mettle
The Tasman Makos' coaching staff probably have some rough idea of their preferred starting lineup for their ITM Cup rugby season-opener.
That's almost three weeks away, so there's still time for the players to push their individual cases and possibly influence the selectors' thinking before Tasman locks horns with the Southland Stags in Invercargill on Saturday, August 17.
That process begins tomorrow in Kaikoura where Tasman play Canterbury in the first of two pre-season warmup games. Game two is against Otago at Trafalgar Park on Sunday, followed by a four-day training camp starting in Picton next Tuesday.
That all points to a busy two-week schedule, with Tasman's two games in the next five days also critical in helping coaches Kieran Keane and Leon MacDonald evaluate their players' readiness for the demanding season ahead.
"The main thrust for the coaches to the players is that it's a week of preparation and it's about how they fit into that," said Keane.
"Everybody will get a run and everybody will have their opportunity to shine and we're asking them to take that [opportunity] and to put their best foot forward. It's [about] how they take that [opportunity] and how they front up.
"So, collectively, it's more about the whole organisation, basically having a dress rehearsal for the week."
They don't have their full squad yet. Crusaders wing Tom Marshall still has a two-week stand-down following Saturday's Super 15 semifinal loss to the Chiefs. Halfback Mark Swanepoel is also committed to the Brumbies and flanker Gary Redmond is injured.
However, the good news is that Marshall's Crusaders team-mate and new Tasman captain, Shane Christie, is back and ready to take his place at the helm.
With both the Nelson Bays and Marlborough division one club seasons ending on Saturday and with several players involved with Super 15 teams, Keane said the players' training workload would be light for the rest of the week. However, he will be interested to see how the players handle the mental aspect of the week's congested programme and particularly how they operate against two tough opponents.
"It is about the head but, at the same time, I'd like to see a bit of heart as well, so it's a combination of the two."
With Waimea Old Boys halfback Kaide Whiting suffering a head injury in Saturday's Nelson Bays club final and Swanepoel still with the Brumbies, midfielder Billy Guyton gets a surprise start in the No 9 jersey tomorrow, with Central halfback Willie Alaiasa called on to the bench as cover.
Tevita Koloamatangi will start in the No 7 jersey ahead of Christie who'll come off the bench, while Tongan international prop Sila Puafisi joins the side as one of two players on provincial union development contracts.
TASMAN MAKOS: Robbie Malneek, Mitchell Scott, Bryce Heem, Andrew Symons, James Lowe, Hayden Cripps, Billy Guyton, George Stowers, Tevita Koloamatangi, Liam Squire, Joe Wheeler, Alex Ainley, Sila Puafisi, Quentin MacDonald, Siua Halanukonuka. Reserves: Reuben Northover, Francis Smith, Tim Perry, Tevita Cavubati, Shane Christie, Vernon Fredericks, Kieron Fonotia, Willie Alaiasa, Mike Wells. -