Wanganui discipline must hold against South Canterbury

With Viki Tofa away on work commitments, prop Gabriel Hakaraia will have to step up in the Wanganui scrum against South Canterbury tomorrow.

No player, from veteran to talented newcomer, can be guaranteed of their spot in the Steelform Wanganui lineup if tomorrow’s 2018 Mitre 10 Heartland opener with rivals South Canterbury is decided by the penalty count at Cooks Gardens.

Preparing to face a fellow traditional powerhouse union in a rematch of last year’s thrilling Meads Cup semifinal, not to mention lingering feeling of the controversial falling out that came two weeks later between lock Sam Madams and then-NZ Heartland XV coach Barry Matthews, Wanganui coach Jason Caskey has put the foot down after the disappointing preseason hit out with the Hawke’s Bay Saracens.

Normally, Wanganui would have the temperament to handle an opposition team upping their physicality, but conceeding 14-15 penalties in the second half alone, many of them repeat offences, proved just too much last Saturday.

Caskey confirmed the team quota of 10 penalties or less from previous campaigns is back on the mandate.

“It’s definitely a goal, we said just straight after the game, ‘we played a good half of rugby, had the better of the game, and then turned around and our discipline went to pieces’.

“No matter how good you are, you’re going to be up against it.”

Helping out the team against the Saracens, Wanganui legend Peter Rowe went to question referee Rebecca Mahony after the match about her interpretations and accepted the former Black Fern’s explanation of her decisions.

But Rowe is no longer on the field and Caskey expects his current players to understand if they get pinged once, it is insanity to do the same thing and expect a different outcome.

He would rather they just leave the ruck ball alone and get back on the defensive line if they can’t get on the same page as the official.

“Whether you think it’s right or wrong, they’ve got the whistle. It’s stupid if you don’t start changing to suit.

“If we haven’t, there might be some serious questions asked of the players.”

Caskey would not be drawn on whether Madams, who dominated the semifinal in Timaru but whose alleged sledging upset Matthews and his players so much that he was ultimately ousted from the Heartland squad, was determined to be the best player on the park tomorrow.

Both sides would be up for a big match to set the Heartland campaign off right, with the Cantabrians still trying to find the magic formula to win the Meads Cup after falling in the playoffs for the past three years.

“These things you carry in you and they remember it,” said Caskey.

“Most people are going to have motivation, being it’s South Canterbury.

“We got plenty of motivation to start the season well, get to try and make advantage of that home ground.

“Five [points] is an absolute bonus, especially against teams of strength. You’d be happy with four and then just run.”

Both teams have tough first halves to their Heartland draw, with Wanganui having the better side of the coin in that they at least get to face South and Mid Canterbury at home, whereas Matthew’s squad has to go on the road to play the Butcher’s Boys and last year’s Meads Cup finalist Horowhenua Kapiti.

However, having secured a handful of loan players – five named in July – Matthews told his local paper they have more depth and stronger forwards.

Prop Kalolo Otutaha, loose forward Matt Etheredge, and centre Henry Scott have been spotlighted as dangermen, while Canterbury standout Dan Dorgan, admittedly the son and great nephew of South Canterbury legends, is coming back from injury and Canadian lock Reegan O’Gorman is also on the roster.

It is notable that as a union, South Canterbury should be able to call upon a local player base comparable to Wanganui, given they have a nine club top grade and eight teams in Senior B.

Remembering the semifinal where Matthews was looking to bring back some imports who had been injured or away from the team, replacing guys who had been winning every week, Caskey pointed out an outsider-stacked side does not necessarily a winning recipe make.

“If there is a need, if you’ve got a shortage [do it], but that team culture is massive and if you start chipping away at that…”

Wanganui struggled with injuries before Timaru, but the team christened themselves “the Battler Boys” and went together to claim the win, with only one imported player, then expat Tom Stewart, on their bench.

Injuries are still the bane of Wanganui’s existence as right when second-five Penijamini Nabainivalu is ready to come back, centre partner Kaveni Dabenaise could not train on Tuesday, with Kameli Kuruyabaki on standby to start.

In addition, fullback Craig Clare did train some of Tuesday night, but will still have to get through a Saturday morning fitness test satisfactorily.

Shandon Scott is his standby, with young utility backs Ethan Robinson and Tyler Rogers-Holden ready to cover the bench.

“We took [Clare] out later because he was tightening up a little bit,” said Caskey.

In addition, prop Viki Tofa has been on contract work over in Waipukurau and while he has trained at least once a week in preseason, he could not make it back for either Tuesday or last night, with Gabriel Hakaraia promoted to start and pack down with Dylan Gallien, now the preferred hooker.

Despite the loss to Tofa, Caskey has complete confidence in Hakaraia, Gallien, Kamipeli Latu and reserve Wiremu Cottrell to cover his absence.

“It’s hard to put him in when we can’t get to training.

“Kamipeli has been there as part of the team as many years as Viki, apart from when he was overseas.

“It’s Gabe’s second year, he should know enough.”

Kickoff will be at 2.30pm, following on from the Wanganui Toyota Development XV playing the curtain-raiser at 12.30pm.

The Steelform Wanganui team is


Position # Name Position Club Height  Weight  Games
1 Kamipeli Latu Prop Border 1.77 125 26
2 Dylan Gallien Hooker Taihape 1.82 102 1
3 Gabriel Hakaraia Prop Ruapehu 1.78 127 8
4 Sam Madams Lock Marist 1.95 106 41
5 Henri Williams Lock Loan – Waikato 2.02 118 1
6 Campbell Hart Lock/Loose Forward Ruapehu 1.94 107 16
7 Jamie Hughes Loose Forward Ruapehu 1.68 86 21
8 Tremaine Gilbert Loose Forward Taihape 1.85 115 38
9 Lindsay Horrocks Halfback Border 1.78 87 52
10 Dane Whale Utility Back Taihape 1.86 95 28
11 Simon Dibben Wing Marist 1.82 96 49
12 Penijamini Nabainivalu Five Eighth Marist 1.82 97 1
13 Kaveni Dabenaise Midfield Back Border 1.80 95 11
13 / 21 – (Bracketed) Kameli Kuruyabaki Midfield Back Taihape 1.87 102 10
14 Harry Symes Wing Border 1.83 81 1
15 Craig Clare Utility Back Ruapehu 1.84 93 17
15 / 22 – (Bracketed) Shandon Scott Fullback Kaierau 1.80 80 1
16 Jack Yarrall Hooker Marist 1.67 99 2
17 Wiremu Cottrell Prop Taihape 1.76 119 1
18 Peter-Travis Hay-Horton Lock Taihape 1.90 110 1
19 Angus Middleton Loose Forward Border 1.81 90 11
20 Joshua Fifita Halfback Ruapehu 1.75 87 1
21 Ethan Robinson Utility Back Kaierau 1.81 89 3
22 Tyler Rogers-Holden Utility Back Border 1.81 80 0
13 / 21 – (Bracketed) Kameli Kuruyabaki Midfield Back Taihape 1.87 102 10
15 / 22 – (Bracketed) Shandon Scott Fullback Kaierau 1.80 80 1

24 Aug, 2018 7:00am
Wanganui Chronicle By: Jared Smith