Rush becomes a Bull

By Jared Smith

Shortly before helping his Waverley Harvesting Border side retain the Rosebowl Trophy on Saturday, outstanding winger Vereniki Tikoisolomone’s immediate future was revealed.

An open secret over the past couple of months of Tasman Tanning Premier, the Taranaki Rugby Union had been negotiating to secure the speedster’s signature, and at the weekend ‘Rush’ was named in the Bulls 30-man squad to begin preparations for the 2021 Bunnings NPC competition.

One of three new signings, Tikoisolomone will join fellow Steelform Whanganui expat Stephen Perofeta in the Neil Barnes-coached squad.

Despite coming from the amateur environment, Whanganui coach Jason Caskey expects his former charge to have a prominent role in the professional team, which aside from the likely unavailable Barrett brothers has named only four specialist outside backs.

“It’s good for him, looks like he’ll be playing or coming off the bench,” said Caskey.

“Good for him, not quite so good for us. But part of our job is providing that stepping stone for the next level.”

Currently, it means Whanganui start preparing for the upcoming representative campaign without Border’s ‘Holy Trinity’ of Tikoisolomone and co-captains Craig Clare and Angus Middleton – the latter unavailable for the representative season while the former is taking a little time off to confirm his presence.

Tikoisolomone came to Border to join older brother and fellow Whanganui rep Renato in 2019 and was sensational in his debut Heartland Championship season – scoring 13 tries in 10 games, just one behind the national record.

Covid-19 meant a short 2020 representative programme, with the speedster also missing some game time with injury, but he finished strong – scoring three tries across the two wins against Wairarapa Bush and Poverty Bay.

In this year’s club campaign, Tikoisolomone was nigh-on unstoppable; scoring 23 tries including four hat-tricks across the 12 games in Border’s run to back-to-back championships.

PAEROA, NEW ZEALAND – OCTOBER 19: Vereniki Tikoisolomone of Wanganui is tackled during the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship Meads Cup Semi Finals match between Thames Valley and Wanganui at Paeroa Domain on October 19, 2019 in Paeroa, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)