The Tasman premier club rugby competition kicks off across the top of the south on Saturday. After an historic year for Nelson rugby which saw the Mako win the Mitre 10 Cup and Nelson College finishing in the top four in the country, there will be plenty of intrigue surrounding the Tasman Trophy in 2020. An injection of new blood and some exciting recruits should make for a highly competitive season. Jonty Dine previews the Nelson sides for 2020.
2019- Tasman Trophy: Champions.
Sub-union: Runners up.
Coach- Gavin Briggs
Marist had a stellar season in 2019, breaking its decade long Tasman trophy hoodoo in a thrilling final against Waimea, winning 32-29 in extra time before being pipped at the death in the Sub-union final by their rivals. The side is riddled with experience with a healthy dose of young talent including Nelson College first five Niko Barton and Tom Thornalley. Returning to the ranks will be the likes of Mako wider squad members Taina-Fox Matamua, Sam Briggs and of course inspirational skipper Jacob Norris.
Ones to watch- Te Puoho Stephens missed a large chunk of the 2019 after suffering a nasty knee injury against Waimea. The blockbusting number 8 is back and looking stronger than ever as he looks to build on the form that saw him included in the All Black Sevens squad last year. Having captained a Mako touring side to the United States, winger Jamie Spowart will bring a new level of experience to his game. Jamie’s fleet feet are again set to cause nightmares for defences. Halfback Cleve Barrell is also making a comeback from injury after topping the try scoring charts in 2019 with 12.
Prediction- Having retained the core of its squad, the green machine will again be a force in the competition and the defending champions take the favourites tag into 2020.
“We’d certainly set goals for another strong season but we need to put in the work to get the results.” –Liam Boshoff, Marist midfielder.
Waimea Old Boys
2019-Tasman Trophy: Runners up
Coach- Dion Mytton
Captain- Ben Eder
Waimea formed one half of an epic rivalry with Marist in 2019 with the sides requiring extra time in both the sub-union and Tasman Trophy finals to find a victor. Though Waimea went down in the Tasman Trophy, the side avenged the extra time loss in another 100-minute thriller to claim the Nelson championship 25-23. Waimea have lost Alex Coventry from the midfield while winger Mitch Amberger will be sitting out the season due to concussion. The side has gained the services of Mitch Barry from Nelson RFC as well as the dynamic Daniel Rogers out of Nelson College.
Ones to watch: Sharpshooter Campbell Parata brought a strong reputation from across the ditch and young first five did not disappoint in 2019, leading the competition points tally with 136 nailing 19 penalty goals. Vice captain Michael Stringer will surely be pushing for Mako selection should he duplicate his form of 2019 while blockbusting number-eight Taya Brown will be looking to make his mark on senior rugby following a successful college career.The club has also signed on former Irish U20 player Will O’Brien. The open-side was playing for Connacht A before coming to Jubilee.
Prediction: There’s little to suggest Waimea won’t be every much the force it as in 2019. Some smart recruitment helps offset some of the player losses and Waimea look a good chance to go one better in the 2019 Tasman Trophy.
“I think it might be a bit tighter this season but we are ready for a good one.”- Dion Mytton, Coach.
Waimea Old Boys fly-half Campbell Parata helped kick his side to victory in the 2019 Sub-Union final. Photo: Evan Barnes/Shuttersport
2019-Tasman Trophy: Ninth
Coach- Brad Allam
Captain- Blair Prinsep
After a disappointing 2019 campaign, Stoke has recruited heavily in the off-season and boasts one of the strongest squads in the competition. The bulk of the 2019 side will be joined by some serious young talent with New Zealand U20s prop Matt Graham Williams, promising utility back Riley Cormack and lock Antonio Shalfoon all moving north form the Canterbury rugby factory. Also joining the side will be stars of the Nelson College 1st XV Fergus Hughes and Levi Carew. First five Taine Robinson has joined the Eagles from Marist while Max Nalder and Jack Grooby will have an intriguing battle for the starting nine jersey.
Ones to watch- Isei Lewaqai and Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta wreaked havoc on defences last season and will no doubt cause plenty more nightmares in 2020. The pair will form part of a powerful pack led by skipper Blair Prinsep upfront. The Eagles have plenty of flair out-wide as well with the likes of Charlie Chambers and the electric Joey Scott.
Prediction- With so many new players Stoke may take a few games to find the right combinations but all signs point to a revival at Greenmeadows.
“We have a young squad but we will put our best foot forward and are confident of a strong season.”- Kyle Whiting, Club Captain.
2019-Tasman Trophy: Sixth
Coach- Kade Heke
Captain- Isaac Salmon
The country’s oldest club will be looking to bounce back from a miserable 2019 seaosn, winning just half its Tasman Trophy games and failing to make the play-offs. In its 150th year, Nelson will have plenty to play for. Nelson will again be without a number of its stars for majority of the season as David Havili, Ethan Blackadder and Quinten Strange have cemented themselves in the Crusaders squad. Winger Tima Faingaanuku is also likely to be absent with the Highlanders. That leaves the likes of number-eight Isaiah Miller and Kershawl Sykes-Martin needing to take on leadership roles. The solid midfield combination of Nick Foxley and Chris Kerslake will again provide the backbone of the backline with Saul Lewis adding some dazzle out wide. The third brother in the Faingaanuku family Ben, will also make his club rugby debut. Prop Isaac Salmon will captain the side for 2020.
Ones to watch- All eyes will of course be on young superstar Anton Segner. The German-born loosie was a standout in his college years, twice being named in the New Zealand Schools team and leading Nelson to its first UC Championship in 13 years. Nelson’s fortunes will also rely heavily on the form of young first five Riaihe Rangihaeata from Auckland who replaces incumbent Willy Havili.
Prediction- Nelson simply possesses too much class to produce another season like it did in 2019. The 150th anniversary of the club should reinvigorate the seven time champions to make a serious run to the finals.
“Our mindset this season is championship or nothing and we know that as a team, we’ve got the potential to do that.” Anton Segner- Nelson RFC debutant.
Former Nelson College skipper Anton Segner will make his much-anticipated club rugby debut this Saturday. Photo: Barry Whitnall/Shuttersport
2019-Tasman Trophy: Fifth
Coach- Brendon Smith
Captain- Manu Parkin
Kahurangi punched well above its weight last season finishing just outside the top four. However, the club has been dealt a massive blow with star lock Tim Sail transferring to North Harbour. The club has maintained most of its squad with two quality new signings including Nelson College prop Luca Inch and first five Brad Coulson from King Country. The squad will see three players play their 100th cap for Kahurangi this season.
Ones to watch- The men from Motueka have gained the services of former Marist front rower and wider Mako squad member Sam Matenga who will add plenty of bulk up front. Outside back Stein Schreiber’s try scoring feats saw him second on the overall charts last year with 11 and his form will again be integral to Kahurangi’s chances. Brothers Jan and Vito Lammers also shape as key figures in the squad.
Prediction- The loss of Sail can’t be underestimated and the side should be expected to be the weakest of the Nelson sides in 2020.
“We have had a good pre-season and the boys are ready to go.”– Brendon Smith, head coach.
2019-Tasman Trophy: Third
Coach- Glenn Grant
Captain- Fletcher Matthews/Gabba de Kock
The boys from Brightwater were the surprise package of 2019 and having retained the core of its squad will again be confident of knocking over some of the power clubs. Wanderers have signed on powerful prop Sione Mau from Wellington as well as utility back Tayne Lockwood from Motueka and half back Stace Forbes from Collingwood. However, the club is struggling for front rowers compounded by a pre season knee injury to Jake Goeddert.
Ones to watch- Schoolboy star Apetone Vaka will play his second season for Wanderers and will form a bruising combination with another new recruit in El-nino Peniamina of Wellington. Danny MacLauchlan will lead the front row while veteran Fletcher Matthews will run the ship from ten. Flanker Chris Hala’ufia was a member of the St Peter’s College First XV that won the National Top four in 2018 and even scored the winning try in the final against Napier Boys’ High School, a strike later voted the Sky Sport try of the year.
Prediction- While Wanderers have some exciting new prospects, they will struggle to match it with the city clubs however as they proved last year, Wanderers can beat anyone on its day.
“We have a good young team looking forward to having a crack and playing some exciting rugby.”
–Glenn Grant, head coach.
Wanderer’s first-five Fletcher Matthews will be crucial for his club. Photo: Chris Symes/ Shuttersport
The five Marlborough-based teams involved have all seen plenty of comings and goings during the off season, including new coaches for two clubs, but will be well-motivated to make their mark on both the Tasman-wide competition, then latterly the Marlborough championship. Peter Jones previews the teams.
There are changes aplenty at the Seddon-based club. They are no longer known as East Coast, this season reverting to the familiar Awatere club’s name, and a new division one coach has arrived. Former Marlborough Red Devil and Southland Stag Kaleni Taetuli will mentor the premier side, which will again feature several new faces. Newcomers include Argentinian playmaker Franco Quinones, West Coaster Jack Devlin, plus assistant coach JP Koen, formerly with Timaru BHS First XV. Losses include goalkicker Myles Hamilton, who is off on OE, Sam Houston and influential hooker Billy Collins.
A more-settled Waitohi side will roll into the 2020 season. Last year the Picton-based crew had trouble confirming a side prior to the season, but this year they are in good shape to mount a powerful title defence. Although without key players Fetuli Paea, Tim O’Malley and Duane Ahololei, a number of the 2019 championship-winning side are back in harness, including player/coach Jimmy Giles.Making a return in Waitohi colours this year are halfback Karlos Tautari and the Karena brothers, Willy and Gannon, while Dylan McManaway and Andre Hebberd have arrived from the 2019 MBC First XV.
Waitohi celebrates its 2019 plate victory. Photo: Gavin Hadfield/Shuttersport
Of all the Marlborough-based clubs, Moutere have had the biggest struggle pulling together a premier squad for 2020. They have suffered a vast number of departures from 2019, including former Mako players Mike Curry, who is now based in the US, and livewire Ben Finau who will play in Sydney. Also absent are the McCormick brothers, Lockie and Matt, Mike Tuipolotu, Michael Leger-Kula, Max Freydell, Josh Reece, Rory Mackessack-Leitch, Tevita Kaloni, Aki Kaumavae and Aiden Gane. However, coach Laurie McGlone and manager James Sutherland have been busy re-building a division one team and expect to be competitive come season kick-off.
The Blues brothers are going through what they term “a rebuilding phase”, with several familiar faces missing from the 2020 line-up. Regulars such as Reyne and Simi Volavola, Francis Roebeck, Gene Simmiss, Dan van Waas, Riley Luke, Vailua Kaloni, Jake Cresswell and Robbie Malneek make way for a new crew. They will be joined by a couple of Tongan under-20 forwards, making for an exciting combination up front. Coach this year is former Mako and Super Rugby player Billy Guyton.
While the Green Machine have also lost a few players, they have been able to name a strong, experienced squad, with their eyes firmly set on snaring the club’s first premier title. Among the absentees are Josh Bason, Owen Soper, Dion Narayan and Jan Hasenlechner but some worthy replacements have been found. They include former Renwick players Pecili Denicaucau, a pacy outside back who last played in 2017, Hamish Stevenson and Zac Harrison-Jones, although the latter was injured in a recent pre-season encounter in Wellington. They have also picked up former MBC flanker Sky Boskett-Barnes, Scotsman Ruairidh Swan, a handy inside back, and former Green Island first five Alex Barnsley.
Saturday March 14
3pm Waimea Old Boys v Stoke at Sports Park
3pm Kahurangi v Marist at Sports Park
3pm Nelson v Wanderers at Neale Park
3pm Renwick vs Waitohi at Renwick
3pm Central vs Moutere at Lansdowne Park