Tasman confirm two more signings

FULL OF BEANS: ‘Crash and bash’ Makos man Jeff Lepa at his other job, creating coffee.
FULL OF BEANS: ‘Crash and bash’ Makos man Jeff Lepa at his other job, creating coffee.

Nelson's David Havili and Waimea Old Boys' Jeff Lepa have signed two-year deals with the Tasman Rugby Union.

Havili has been on Tasman's radar for some time, the former Nelson College First XV player already having signed a provincial union development contract this year. However, Lepa is fresh on the scene, the Christchurch-born loose forward playing his first club game for Waimea against Wanderers in May.

Seven games later, 22-year-old Lepa steps out for Waimea against Wanderers again in the Nelson Bays club championship final at Trafalgar Park on Saturday.

It was with this year's ITM Cup in mind that Lepa initially made his move to Nelson after an approach from the Waimea club.

"So I grabbed that [opportunity] with both hands and made the move up and I'm really thankful I made that decision," Lepa said.

Lepa played for the Linwood High School First XV before spending his last year at college in 2009 at Christchurch Boys' High - when they lost to Nelson College in the Press Cup semifinals.

He has played for the Linwood premier club side since 2010, initially as a No 8 and then at blindside flanker. "They used me as a lineout option as well, so [I was used] at No 6 or lock because they saw that I had jumping ability in the lineout."

At a bruising 1.93m and 110kg, Lepa prefers blindside flanker but acknowledges he'll also provide back-up cover at lock for Tasman. He's comfortable with his playing weight which complements his physical ball-carrying approach.

"It's a weight I want to maintain. I find that I do carry it around the field quite well. Any heavier and it'd get a bit harder and any lighter and it'd make me a bit weaker and more of an easy target - specially being in the forwards," Lepa said.

Havili's signing will be seen by many as a formality, particularly after his selection as a late replacement in the New Zealand under-20 team which finished third at the recent IRB Junior World Cup tournament in Auckland.

The son of former Nelson Bays representative wing Bill Havili, the 19-year-old outside back signed a development contract with the union this year, committing both parties to a formal development programme as the initial step towards his goal of becoming a professional rugby player.

He has now been fully upgraded to Tasman's ITM Cup squad and while the gifted young player is capable of wearing any double-digit number on his back, the Tasman union sees his future value lying at either wing or fullback.

"I prefer fullback," Havili said. "It doesn't matter really where I play but I'd rather be at fullback, which is my main position."

The Nelson Mail