Makos view Southland match as 'tough start'
Tasman have retained the core of last season's squad and are hoping to make a strong start to this year's national provincial championship campaign, which opens against Southland on Saturday.
Keeping the majority of their team intact would be important to their 2013 prospects, Makos coach Kieran Keane said.
"We've lost a little bit of glue but we are pretty happy with where we have come back to.
"We've kept the core, so we are happy with that. It's been back to front, to be fair," he said.
"We had all of our pre-seasons in one week, we could have done with another one, to be honest, but we had a good camp and it was just the way the cards fell.
"We had a couple of wins but they don't mean anything.
"It's more about what we wanted to achieve and we achieved most of those things."
The Makos, beaten semifinalists in the championship division last year, lost livewire wing Peter Betham back to Australia, captain Andrew Goodman, No 8 Jordan Tuafua, halfback Jeremy Su'a, former All Black prop Campbell Johnstone and lock Filipo Levi.
But they managed to retain the likes of first five Hayden Cripps, centre Kieron Fonotia, Crusaders fullback Tom Marshall and veteran Robbie Malneek.
Marshall will be joined by Crusaders team-mate Quentin MacDonald and Highlanders forward Joe Wheeler.
The team will be led by new Highlander Shane Christie, a player rated highly by Keane.
"He's outstanding, an outstanding guy and a real competitor," Keane said.
"He can play seven or eight, is a skilled player and he's a good leader.
"He's been promoted from vice-captain from last year to captain and that will take a little bit of adjustment, he'll have to deal with the workload that entails. We've got a lot of confidence in him."
Tasman's buildup had not been ideal, Keane said.
He said tackling Southland in Invercargill, a fellow championship semifinalist last year, was a tough start to the season.
"It's the nature of the competition. It's great to be back into it but you've got to turn up on the day because if you don't, you get second pretty quickly."
Meanwhile, Keane was disappointed not to see the Highlanders prosper this season after he was part of the franchise's management group under Jamie Joseph until the end of last year.
"I felt a bit sad about them.
"They had a season from hell, to be honest."
Tasman and Southland are expected to confirm their teams for the NPC opener today.
The season starts in Pukekohe tonight as Tana Umaga's Counties Manukau take on Wellington.
- © Fairfax NZ News