Bay of Plenty name 2013 ITM Cup squad

Tuesday, June 25, 2013    

The squad, including 33 players in line with the union’s desire to build both depth and competition for places in the starting 15, features 11 current Super Rugby players and no fewer than 13 members of the undefeated Bayfair Baywide premier competition-leading Tauranga Sports side.

Part of the reason for selecting an enlarged squad is to mitigate against the large number of Super Rugby players who will likely be absent until at least the second round of the ITM Cup.

A captain is yet to be named, with Schuler stressing the need for players who have had a full preseason to take a collective ownership of a leadership role.
“While guys like Tanerau Latmier, who has been in career-best form for the Chiefs, will have an undoubted leadership role to play once he returns from Super Rugby duty, it’s important that players who are here all the way through step up to form a strong, cohesive unit in their absence,” said Schuler.

“Ideally, Tanerau and the likes will return and slot straight back into a squad filled with players comfortable with their role in leading the side, and who know what it means to represent the Bay.”

Aside from Latimer, the only player named from a Division One side is promising 18-year-old Elijah Nicholas of Rangiuru, who has impressed with a series of physical performances in the midfield so far this season.

“There’s some rules and regulations around how much he can play and we still have to go through that process with him.

“We threw him in against the Chiefs the other day and he’s a young boy who’s right up there in the fitness tests. We know he’s got the skills and the athletic ability and size to compete at this level and handle it, but we wanted to get more of a gauge of his head space, his confidence and competitive nature.

“We are pretty confident that, while he’s a young fella and a development project, he’s a really exciting prospect.”

At the other end of the scale is Matt Clutterback, who has made a huge contribution to Bay rugby after leading the development side last year. Schuler believes the Rangataua loose forward, who fits his rugby around professional commitments working for ASB, will bring a huge amount to the team environment.

Players contracted from outside New Zealand include Melbourne Rebels wing Kimami Sitauti and Hamilton-born former Italian international Josh Sole, who has three test tries to his name since making his test debut against Argentina in 2005.

“Josh has played 47 times for Italy and has played plenty of Heineken Cup, so brings the experience we were looking for to complement our locking stocks. Josh is a big man at 6’5 and 115kg and can play lock, six and eight which gives us that cover, so we’re pretty excited about signing someone like that.

“We’ve got Culum Retallick coming back form the Blues, and we’ve also got Tim Bond and Keepa Mewett who are showing great promise as our younger locks.”

The 21-year-old Sitauti, who represented Auckland at age group level before continuing his schooling in Australia en route to representing Australia in Sevens at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and the Australian under-20s side at the 2011 IRB Junior World Championships, is on the comeback trail after breaking his leg in a training ground incident for the Rebels in early-December.

“Kimani is a New Zealand age group representative who played New Zealand Secondary Schools with Carl Axtens and Sam Cane. He’s an exciting, electric young winger, who gives us some real finishing power out wide and has some good Super Rugby experience as well.”

One outside back is still to be added to the squad, with Schuler not ruling out signing a player from outside the region.

“We’re still casting our net. We’ve got players in the squad who can play the sort of specific fullback role we are looking for, so we won’t be rushing into it.”
Schuler described Tauranga Sports’ Steve Honey and Nic Evemy as two players who have worked hard to prove themselves in the Bayfair Baywide club rugby competition.

“It’s really pleasing to see players like that who have worked hard during their offseason and are in the best form of their lives.

“Joe Tupe is another one – he came up earlier in the year and has shown some really good touches for Greerton Marist. One thing all the players have been doing is performing well at club level, which is great for us.

“There’s competition right the way through the squad. Everywhere we look there will be competition for places and that’s what we need.”

The Steamers’ preparations for the ITM Cup includes preseason games against Counties Manukau on August 1, Manawatu in Whakatane on August 6 and North Harbour on August 12, with the competition proper to begin with a match against Otago in Dunedin on August 18.

Steamers 2013 ITM Cup Squad:

Kalem Chan Boon (Greerton Marist)
Nathan Harris (Te Puke Sports)
Joe Royal (Rotoiti)

Josh Hohneck (Tauranga Sports)
Mike Kainga (Mount Maunganui)
Pingi Taalapitaga (Tauranga Sports)
Kane Hames (Tauranga Sports)
Solomona Sakalia (Mount Maunganui)

Keepa Mewett (Tauranga Sports)
Brodie Retallick (Tauranga Sports)
Tim Bond (Te Puke Sports)
Culum Retallick (Tauranga Sports)
Josh Sole (Aironi-Italy)

Loose Forwards
Joe Tupe (Greerton Marist)
Tanerau Latimer (Rangiuru)
Matt Clutterbuck (Rangataua)
Sam Cane (Tauranga Sports)
Carl Axtens (Tauranga Sports)
Kieran Black (Te Puna)
Johan Bardoul (Mount Maunganui)

Samisoni Fisilau (Te Puna)
Josh Hall (Tauranga Sports)
Dan Deveraux (Greerton Marist)

First five-eighths
Willie Ripia (Rotoiti)
Chris Noakes (Tauranga Sports)

Midfield backs
Kenny Lynn (Mount Maunganui)
Brett Mather (Tauranga Sports)
Nic Evemy (Tauranga Sports)
Sam Beard (Mount Maunganui)
Elijah Nicholas (Rangiuru)

Outside backs
Tino Nemani (Greerton Marist)
Maru Henry (Paroa)
Kimami Sitauti (Melbourne Rebels)
Steve Honey (Tauranga Sports)
*One outside back still to be added

Not considered due to injury:
Jamie Nutbrown (Te Puke Sports)
Phil Burleigh (Tauranga Sports)
Jesse Acton (Rotoiti)