Nelson's Quinten Strange bashes over the line to score in his side's 27-29 loss to Kahurangi on Saturday. Photo: Chris Symes/Shuttersport.

From middle of midfield to middle of front row

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There wouldn’t be many rugby coaches who cast an eye over to their back line when looking to fill a hole in the middle of their front row.

But that’s exactly what Galbraith Nelson coaches Kade Heke and Chris Pugh did when they turned their second five eight into a hooker.

Chris Kerslake usually pulls on the number 12 jersey when he plays senior rugby, but an injury crisis at hooker has meant he’s swapped that for a number 2 over the past month.

Not that he minds.

“First time I had to play it, in the final against Waimea, I was a bit nervous, but after the first couple of scrums I felt quite comfortable with it. I’m not a front row forward, but I have enjoyed it.”

He says, when it was obvious the team had a problem finding a hooker he offered himself and it’s been a steep learning curve since. “It’s given me an appreciation of what they do. I did two weeks of line outs, but one of our props can throw in so he’s been doing it the last couple of weeks. Learning line out calls a couple of days before the game was pretty tough.”

Chris, the team’s co-captain along with Ethan Blackadder, says he has played in the forwards “years ago and certainly not at this level”.

Nelson’s 29-27 loss to Kahurangi on the weekend might have been his last in the front row though, with regular hooker Brendon Asuma-Goodman targeting a return against Marist at Trafalgar Park this weekend.

Co-coach Chris Pugh says the team has been struggling with injuries after losing eight players in the Tasman Trophy final three weeks ago.

“On Saturday we had a very makeshift back line and that’s where they made big inroads.”

Nelson are still top of the Car Company division one standings with Wanderers in second, Waimea third and Marist fourth.