Whanganui’s young guns ready for HYC Under 20’s

By Jared Smith

They’ve spent the last three months being young guns amongst men, but now the Whanganui Under 20’s get to show what they can do on equal terms.

The U20 HYC Heartland Series kicks off at Cooks Gardens on Saturday as Whanganui will face Horowhenua-Kapiti, before heading to Palmerston North to play Wairarapa Bush and Poverty Bay on August 6-7.

Under the successful Ali Arc Logistics–TD Brick & Blocks Marist Celtic coaching team of Duane Brown and assistant Steelie Koro, a squad of 24 was settled on from the 30 who were nominated by their clubs to muster.

A handful of them have already made an impact in Tasman Tanning Premier club rugby, with the rest coming out of the Senior competition.

“They’ve played together a few times through the [Under] 18’s, and they’re all mates,” said Brown.

Last year’s Whanganui Under 18 squad became the first side from the union to lift the Trustbank Central Shield as Hurricanes U18 champions.

“They’re definitely a pretty talented team. On paper, I was like, ‘wow’, looking at the names on the sheet was enough to think, ‘aw, jeeze, it’s pretty handy,” said Brown.

“We’re the curtain raiser for the Heartland game too. Hopefully we’ll put up a good show.”

Running the cutter will be Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist standout Rangi Kui, who had to miss the last few games of the Premier competition with a neck injury and then Covid.

“Looking sharp, he came to the muster on Wednesday [July 20] keen as,” said Brown.

“Just that bit on the sideline there put a bit of fire under him, so hopefully we can grab that out of him and put it on the park.

“We’re planning to put Anthony [Sellers] in the back, and between the two of them, move that backline up.”

There is also some talent in the pack.

“Who surprised me most was Jacob Sciascia from Taihape – he actually took a leadership role in the muster.

“Logan Kingi, he put a lot into what we’re trying to achieve, and you’ve got Nio [Tichbon] and also Rongomai [McLean-Wanoa] who can steal anything from anywhere.

“Taine Tucker, he’s a big man and young too.

“Hopefully have the engine room to keep that ball, or even if we don’t have it, pinch it.”

Whanganui have ground to make up after 2021 where Horowhenua-Kapiti U20 were undefeated champions, having lost to them and Wairarapa Bush before narrowly winning the last match with Poverty Bay.

“We’ll take it as it comes. Horowhenua-Kapiti have always been pretty talented, they run the ball a lot from what I’ve seen,” said Brown.

“Wairarapa Bush are always good, they’ve always done really well in the age group, and Poverty Bay, that’s Maori rugby – they’ll run it from anywhere – plus that’s [my] home as well, so it would be good to get one up on them.”

The team is

Logan Kingi, Blake Mitchell (Border); Neo Tichbon, Stan Puapii, Anthony Sellers, Loma Ligavatu, Aporosa Bulivou, Rehimana Meihana, Jordyn Turvey (Kaierau); Te Kaokao Kairimu, Rongomai McLean-Wanoa, Dareus Hina-Pauro, Rangi Kui, Lafo Ah Ching, Atriane Marino (Marist); Taine Tucker (Marton); Tawhiwhi Karatiana, Mitai Hemi (Ratana Pa); Ben Waiwai, Jayden Taylor (Ruapehu); Renata Campbell-Simon, Jacob Sciascia (Taihape); Joseph Abernethy (Utiku); Casey Hunterville (Hunterville).