Country first up for Tasman B
Despite limited preparation, Tasman B representative rugby coach Gary Stevens is confident there will be enough cohesion within his team to handle Canterbury Country's challenge tomorrow at Trafalgar Park.
It's the first match of Tasman's South Island championship series, involving separate competitions in both the Crusaders and Highlanders regions. The top two teams from each region will meet in semifinals on September 29 ahead of the October 6 final.
The squad was only finalised after last Saturday's Seddon Shield clash between Nelson Bays and Marlborough. But despite the limited buildup, Stevens said that the players' involvement in the Tasman union's high performance programmes, both in Nelson and Blenheim, had helped with familiarisation.
With 12 of tomorrow's starting lineup also part of the Nelson Bays side that reclaimed the Seddon Shield from Marlborough, Stevens said the players were also aware of the systems that Tasman will be using in this season's campaign. Stevens also helped coach Nelson Bays to last Saturday's impressive 47-7 win.
"A lot of the guys involved in Tasman B have been in that [high performance] programme," said Stevens. "And I've purposely implanted a lot of our strategies into the Nelson Bays team in the past couple of weeks, just to give us some grounding for this week, knowing that I'd only have a five day turnaround to get some fluency there."
He said there was already a healthy rapport among the players.
"There's a particular camaraderie there already, really helped by the fact that we've run these high performance programmes through the year, so guys are familiar with each other.
"And they're quite excited about the programme . . . and they know that, particularly with my close connections with the Makos, that there is going to be some serious viewing of these players and promotion and a good balance between the Makos and Tasman B programme this year."
He certainly wasn't underestimating Canterbury Country's challenge.
"We'll expect a pretty rugged affair, as usual. They're always pretty battle-hardened up front and love climbing into the tough stuff, so we'll just have to front up in that respect."
Tomorrow's game kicks off at Trafalgar Park at 12.30pm.
TASMAN B: Tema Faifua, Farrel Mulipola, Mike Lealafa'a, Sione Holani, George Millar, James Lash, Shaun Begg (captain), Fetu'uloa Havili, Mitchell Thwaites, Niu Taufa, Jarrod Aberhart, Riki Hoeata, Ropate Rinakama, Logan Bolsom, Mike Tyler. Substitutes: Kurt Lindsay, Christian Tupuiola, Ben Sadrugu, James Pigou, Loui Harvey, Dan MacDonald, Kaide Whiting.
The Nelson Mail