Tietjens calls up 'X-factor' player

Morrinsville teenager Luke Masirewa has been whisked into the New Zealand Sevens team in South Africa on the eve of Waikato's bid to qualify for next month's national sevens tournament.

But there will still be two Masirewas in the Waikato men's team to play in today's Northern Region qualifying tournament in Auckland as Waikato aim to finish in the top six of eight sides to make it through to the January 12-13 national event in Queenstown.

All Blacks Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens called in 18-year-old Luke Masirewa as a replacement player for Sherwin Stowers for the Port Elizabeth leg of the IRB World Sevens Series which kicks-off there today.

Stowers injured his hamstring during last weekend's Dubai tournament.

"Luke was in our squad but he got the call-up overnight to go to South Africa so he's had to pull out," Waikato Sevens coach Roger Randle said yesterday.

Masirewa is a nationally contracted player, having been selected at a training camp several weeks ago, and has been on Tietjens' radar since earlier in the year when he was recommended by Randle as a player with "X factor" to watch out for.

Luke is the son of former New Zealand Sevens star Waisiki Masirewa and Luke's brother Atu and his cousin Semisi, who last year played for Manawatu while at school there, are both in the Waikato 12 to play at Waitemata Rugby Club today.

"Being Ski's son he's got a lot of pedigree there, has all the Masirewa genes and is an outstanding talent," Randle said of Luke Masirewa.

The Waikato men will today play Northland, Auckland Barbarians and North Harbour in pool play and Randle believes a couple of wins should be enough to get them into the top six.

"But like anything if you're off your game a wee bit, and in terms of combinations we're not totally there yet, you can come a cropper.

"We're not looking any further than our first game against Northland because we will put ourselves under pressure if we don't start the tournament well and get that win."

Randle believes he has a strong team for today, even with four players - Rory Grice, Save Tokula, Jono Malo and Jake Ale - out injured.

Just three players - Josaan Levien, Glen Robertson and Steve Ketu - are back from last year with new faces including Taranaki loan player Kylem O'Donnell.

Randle is hoping the injured quartet will be available for the national tournament if the team qualifies. The Bay of Plenty provincial sevens on January 5 will be used as a warm-up event.

Meanwhile Waikato women's coach Reuben Samuels has been able to name a full-strength side for the qualifier.

The Hohepa sisters, Carla and Chyna, return from winning the Dubai Women's IRB Sevens leg last weekend with the New Zealand team to boost the Waikato lineup.

Also included are Black Ferns Teresa Te Tamaki, Chelsea Alley and Victoria Grant, the latter having recovered from the injury that saw her miss most of the 2012 season.

The Waikato women will play Bay of Plenty, Counties Manukau, Northland and Auckland with only the top two automatically qualifying for the national tournament.


Waikato Sevens teams: Men: Steve Ketu (c), Josaan Levien, Joe Scheres, AJ Tuhoro, Jono Sullivan, Kane Adams, Kylem O'Donnell, Atu Masirewa, Nanai Naturaga, Marnus Hanley, Semisi Masirewa, Glen Robertson. Women: Ashlee Gaby-Sutherland, Azania Watene, Carla Hohepa, Chelsea Alley, Chyna Hohepa, Crystal Kaua, Francea Hansen, Honey Hireme, Jordon Webber, Racqual Anderson, Teresa Te Tamaki, Victoria Grant.

Waikato Times