Wanganui Women vs Wairarapa Bush showcase game at Cooks Gardens on Saturday.

By Jared Smith

It will be the last and the largest showcase for local women’s rugby in 2020 when a Wanganui representative side meets Wairarapa Bush at Cooks Gardens on Saturday.

The curtain-raiser to the big Steelform Wanganui vs Wairarapa Bush clash for the Bruce Steel Memorial Cup, the game will be in the 10-a-side format, due to the number of players available for the visiting team.

“It kind of works out a little bit better for ourselves, as myself and whoever gets selected for the [Manawatu Cyclones] game are out,” said WRFU development officer and former Black Fern Sosoli Talawadua.

The Cyclones play their last Farah Palmer Cup pool game in Napier on Friday, meaning definitely Talawadua and possibly her St Johns Wanganui Metro team mate Lavenia Nauga-Grey will be in that fixture.

However, Metro’s third Cyclones squad member Montel Vaiao Aki will play for Wanganui, having been in the Manawatu wider training group to get professional experience and development.

Having had two Wednesday training sessions, the wider Wanganui squad getting ready consisted of around 17 players, a mixture of the experienced and first-year rookies.

Talawadua looked to bring in players from Cullinane College and Whanganui High School, who contested the WRFU’s Secondary Schools 10-a-side final, however the WHS players have a sevens tournament this weekend, meaning Wanganui will miss both Metro player Hollyrae Mete and Barbarians Hurricanes Under 18 camp attendee Riana Tamati.

Having done the MIT course through the WRFU this year, Milika Siganisuca will play, while returning home to Whanganui after playing in Bay of Plenty is Shaniqka Jones, who will likely take over Tamati’s halfback role off the bench.

Coming from Marton’s Huntley School staff are Georgia Harrold, a speedy winger on a gap year from England, and the experienced Charlotte McGullough.

The Wairarapa Bush side is understood to include about 5-6 members of the Bush Sports Club, who debuted at the same time as Metro in this year’s shortened Manawatu club competition, winning the game between the two sides 39-17 in Pahiatua on July 11.

Otherwise, Talawadua understands the visitors will also be a mixture of old heads and rookies.

“There’s a bit of varied experience in the group, so hopefully that’s similar to our team and it will be an even match.”

The game will consist of 25 minute halves, and Talawadua said they will discuss with the visitors whether they do “hit and hold” scrums or uncontested with regards to player safety.

“We don’t expect them to do it if they’re not comfortable.”

Kickoff is at 1pm.

The Wanganui team is: 1. Montel Aki; 2. Kimberly Hunt; 3. Lavenia Nauga-Grey (TBC); 4. Daina Pa’a; 5. Sereima Vakuruivale; 6. Charlotte McGullough; 7. Catherine Nauga; 8. Courtney Harvey; 9. Anastasia Tamaniyaga; 10. Georgia Harrold. Reserves: Bayley Perana, Charis Perofeta, Te Amorangi Karaitiana, Milika Siganisuca, Shaniqka Jones.

In the Farah Palmer Cup, the Manawatu Cyclones sit in second place for the ‘South’ division with a 3-1 record, and need to beat the Hawke’s Bay Tui (1-3) at McLean Park to confirm their semifinal spot against either Waikato or the Auckland Storm, who meet in their last ‘North’ division game on Sunday.

Talawadua said the team had good high intensity training on Saturday for their gap weekend, which was followed up on Tuesday, while their regular Thursday run will be light due to the match being the following afternoon.

 “The girls are confident but not getting ahead of ourselves – making sure we get the basics right, execute what we need on the day.”

Kickoff is 4.35pm on Friday.