Ma'a Nonu set to play in club rugby cup clash

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2013
Ma'a Nonu
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ
SIDELINE STAR: Ma'a Nonu was ball-boy for his club, Oriental Rongotai, last weekend.

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All Black Ma'a Nonu is set to add to an already star-studded Oriental Rongotai side for their Jubilee Cup semi-final game.

Just don't expect a word of protest from opponents Hutt Old Boys Marist, who are looking forward to the challenge at the Hutt Recreation Ground on Saturday.

It'd be understandable if there were whispers of discontent at Ories' late-season acquisition of All Blacks Nonu and Julian Savea to go with potential Hurricanes in Ardie Savea, Mark Reddish and Matt Proctor.

HOBM welcome the excitement generated by the presence of the province's professionals.

"At the end of the day they are all Ories players from way back. It's not like they've gone shopping, so nah, we're pretty happy," HOBM coach Justin Wilson said yesterday.

"Finals rugby is different. If Ories end up with Julian and Ma'a, Motu [Matu'u], Reddish - whoever they come out with - it's going to be a hell of a battle. I just hope our boys can come out on top after 80 minutes."

Though Wilson doesn't have quite the same firepower to call on, he is making every effort to gain the services of All Black lock Jeremy Thrush.

With Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano and Brodie Retallick all involved in Super Rugby's playoffs, Wilson is unsure if All Black coach Steve Hansen will release his fourth lock for the match.

"We'll have to play it by ear until we get the okay but if the big chief says he can play I'm sure Thrushy will be in there," Wilson said.

He could understand concerns about sides being bolstered for the finals but Wilson was adamant the benefits of All Blacks playing club rugby outweigh any concerns.

In fact only Nonu would be making his first appearance of the season - Proctor, Reddish and the Savea brothers already played for Ories this season.

Julian Savea's appearance against Old Boys University at Nairnville helped boost the crowd during last weekend's final round and Wilson hopes it will be the same for the semifinals.

Regardless, he says home ground advantage will be a major advantage.

"It's a huge advantage for us not to have to truck out to the Polo Ground or Lyndhurst or Nairnville. After finishing fifth last year we're happy to turn around and have a home semifinal.

"At the end of the day we would have to play Ories now or in the final if we wanted to win the title. It doesn't matter when you play them, you still have to beat them."

Wilson's side were well beaten last week by Tawa but with 11 players back from injury, they would be at full strength for the semi-final, he said.

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Despite an absence of representative players, HOBM beat Ories twice this season, 30-25 in the Swindale Shield and 28-16 in round five of the Jubilee Cup.

Top qualifiers and Swindale Shield champions Tawa and Old Boys University will meet in the other semifinal, to be held at Lyndhurst Park.

- The Dominion Post

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