We continue our reviews on all 12 Heartland Teams
we now look at Thames Valley and Wairarapa Bush
The decision of 69-match All Black Frank Bunce to climb on board as assistant to new coach Hayden Roe, a former Valley rep, has given the Swamp Foxes an extra dimension this season.
Bunce, who has purchased a tyre shop in Thames, has attracted a young 136kg prop, Eva Taumalolo (Manukau Rovers), who has played in France, to boost Valley’s front row.
Michael Tuiloma, 120kg, who played a game for 2013 Lochore Cup champions South Canterbury, is another front rower along with former Waikato loosehead Kieran Ramage.
Former Fijian international lock Savenaca Tabakanalagi, another at 120 kg, is also in the squad as is ex Auckland and Southland centre Watisoni Lotawa.
The backline includes 30-year-old first five or utility back David Harrison, the most capped squad member with more than 85 caps and 582 points to his credit.
The Foxes have swamped Matamata Corinthians 64-10 and beat the Cook Islands 19-12 before losing 68-0 to Counties Manukau in a Ranfurly Shield challenge in Pukekohe.
Valley would love a start like last season, claiming the scalps of both Lochore Cup finalists, South Canterbury and Buller, plus Poverty Bay before four losses on the trot and then beating Meads Cup semi-finalists Wairarapa-Bush but eventually losing 14-8 away to champions South Canterbury in the Lochore semis.
|Thames Valley 2014 Heartland Championship|
|23-Aug||Horo-Kapiti v Thames Valley||Levin||2:30 p.m.|
|30-Aug||Thames Valley v King Country||Te Aroha||2:00 p.m.|
|6-Sep||Thames Valley v Mid Canterbury||Paeroa||2:00 p.m.|
|13-Sep||East Coast v Thames Valley||Ruatoria||2:30 p.m.|
|20-Sep||Thames Valley v North Otago||Paeroa||2:00 p.m.|
|27-Sep||Wai-Bush v Thames Valley||Masterton||2:00 p.m.|
|4-Oct||Thames Valley v Poverty Bay||Paeroa||2:30 p.m.|
|11-Oct||West Coast v Thames Valley||Greymouth||2:30 p.m.|
WAIRARAPA-BUSH – http://waibush.co.nz
The loss of four key loose forwards and accurate goal-kicker Glen Walters are gaps for coach Mark Rutene and assistant Paddy Gough to overcome this season.
The union, original holders of the Meads Cup in 2006, have finished third for the past two season after a four-year slump in form although winning the Lochore Cup in 2010 was a consolation.
Walters, a Hutt OB Marist first five who was a Player of Origin in 2012 and set a Wairarapa record of 166 pts, scored 278 pts in his 21 games in two seasons.
The Stags, however, may have a very suitable replacement in Sam Monaghan, the former Canterbury ITM Cup rep.
Loosies missing from last year are skipper Johan Van Vliet (No 8), back in Holland, injured blindside flanker James Goodger, fellow side rower John McFadzean (overseas) and back rower Nathan Iro (in Wellington).
The tight forward department has been strengthened by the return of 52-match prop Kurt Simmonds and lock Andrew McLean (45 caps) who helped Wairarapa frighten Wanganui 20-23 in a tense 2012 semi-final.
The team’s top try scorer last season, winger Paul Tikomainavalu, has been in sharp club form.
The Stags have started 2014 by beating Horowhenua-Kapiti 55-14 in a warm-up game in Featherston and a very convincing 71-0 win over Poverty Bay
|Wairarapa Bush 2014 Heartland Championship|
|23-Aug||King Country v Wairarapa Bush||Taupo||2:00 p.m.|
|30-Aug||Wairarapa Bush v Mid Canterbury||Masterton||1:30 p.m.|
|6-Sep||Sth Canterbury v Wairarapa Bush||Timaru||1:30 p.m.|
|13-Sep||Wairarapa Bush v Poverty Bay||Masterton||2:30 p.m.|
|20-Sep||Horo-Kapiti v Wairarapa Bush||Levin||2:30 p.m.|
|27-Sep||Wairarapa Bush v Thames Valley||Masterton||2:00 p.m.|
|4-Oct||Wanganui v Wairarapa Bush||Wanganui||2:30 p.m.|
|11-Oct||Wairarapa Bush v Buller||Masterton||2:30 p.m.|
Next Up and our last 2 previews :
WANGANUI – 2013 finish: Lochore Cup semi-finalists
WEST COAST – 2013 finish: Meads Cup semi-finalists
Previews compiled by JB Phillips