Score top marks yet again for the Chiefs' coaches and their player recruitment and selection.
In 2012 it was all about little known Hawke's Bay youngsters Brodie Retallick and Ben Tameifuna, plus Manawatu winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma, becoming instant success stories.
Last year there was the signing out of Auckland of first-five Gareth Anscombe and turning him into an attacking fullback, while few had heard of young hooker Rhys Marshall who made the step up to Super Rugby impressively when tossed in the deep end.
This year they have come up trumps with the newly recruited Tasman quartet of Tom Marshall, James Lowe, Liam Squire and Tevita Koloamatangi, who all made big contributions to Friday night's 36-20 victory over the Stormers in Hamilton.
"It was great to get Tom Marshall on the field and he was very strong at 12, while James Lowe was very strong on the wing, Tevita [Koloamatangi] gave us good impact off the bench and Liam Squire had a big game till he started cramping up," Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie said of the Tasman signings.
Marshall may well have solved a problem for the Chiefs at second five-eighth.
He left the Crusaders after playing mostly on the wing there to join the Chiefs with the ambition of getting more time at fullback but the coaches liked what they saw from him in the No 12 jersey for Tasman last national provincial championship season and put him there against the Stormers.
While not huge in stature he did well taking the ball into contact and defending, while his skills and speed make him a dangerous broken field attacker.
For Lowe it was a bitter-sweet experience. There was the elation of scoring the game's first try and like Marshall having a mostly standout first start for the Chiefs, but it was then tempered by the medial ligament injury he suffered in his knee that looks certain to sideline him for the next four to six weeks, meaning he misses the overseas tour.
"They think it's bad because I kept on playing because I was able to play, but we'll reassess tomorrow and see how I sleep," the devastated Lowe said.
"It's just a bit of salt in the wound really, because I'd been excited the whole week and glad I was able to put a performance in that I'm happy with for my first start, especially on such a big occasion of Jean de Villiers' and Tanerau Latimer's 100th games."
Lowe played with an audacious attacking confidence that was the match of his team-mates and he was the prime beneficiary of a tactical ploy to exploit the space out wide left by the Stormers' compressed outside-in defensive pattern.
"[It was the result of] a lot of meetings and a lot of positivity," Lowe said.
"Renns told me to play as if I was back home because at Tasman we've got a licence to run and here we knew the Stormers were going to be quite condensed and turn in a lot so we were able to exploit that," he said.
Likely injury layoff now or not, Lowe is sold on Super Rugby.
"It's awesome, it's a whole other level. I'm absolutely loving every minute of it.
"You've got to understand that we have some top quality outside backs and if you don't perform you don't get picked.
"I was given an opportunity tonight and I thought I took it but I'm just gutted that my knee is not feeling that great."
Lowe has been playing rugby with Tom Marshall since they were in the Nelson College first XV together in 2008 and he still wears his Nelson College wristband everywhere he goes.
"We understand each other, how we play, and I know what Tom's doing and Tom knows what I'm doing I guess."
For Koloamatangi there was satisfaction at being able to come off the bench and join centurions Liam Messam and Latimer in the loose forward trio to make an impact, which included the key try that put an end to a Stormers comeback.
And to be part of that Tasman contribution was especially satisfying.
"It was a good opportunity for us Tasman boys to put our hands up and to have three others out there with Tom, James Lowe and Liam, plus me coming off the bench, was just an awesome feeling to represent and contribute to the Chiefs Mana and the Chiefs team," Koloamatangi said.
- Waikato Times
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