NEVER change a winning team is the philosophy of many coaches.
But when that change is the inclusion of a former All Black, one can appreciate why Poverty Bay coach Mutu Ngarimu had no hesitation when Rico Gear made himself available for their Heartland Championship game against North Otago in Oamaru on Saturday
“It’s not often you get a former All Black and a former New Zealand Maori (Jake Paringatai) in a Heartland team,” said Ngarimu, whose side are looking for back-to-back wins after beating Ngati Porou East Coast 52-12 last weekend.
“As it’s turned out, Brad Turei (fullback) is unavailable so a spot opened up and you don’t turn down the opportunity to play a former All Black when he makes himself available.”
Gear will play at fullback.
“Having players with this experience and a hunger to play for us is huge,” said Ngarimu.
“Jake is new to the district but he’s already one of the boys, and Rico is one of us —he’s Poverty Bay through and through. He’s an inspirational player who will add punch to the backline.”
Poverty Bay assistant coach Gear, now 36, has been there and done that including playing 19 tests for his country (scoring 11 tries), a Commonwealth Games sevens gold medal, Super Rugby title and stints in Japan and England.
On his visits home he always said he wanted to come back and play for Poverty Bay. On Saturday he will be true to his word.
“I’m really enjoying coaching and that was always my main focus when I came back and took on the rugby development officer’s position,” said Gear, an old boy of Elgin School, Gisborne Intermediate and Gisborne Boys’ High.
“This is where it all started for me and now it’s time to give something back.
“I’m keen to help develop the young players but now I want to contribute even more, which is why I’ve made myself available for selection.
“I feel I have something to offer as a player. I’m looking forward to the game.
“North Otago are traditionally one of the top-four sides and they’ll be hurting after losing (to Buller) at the weekend.”
Gear, who made his debut for the Bay against King Country on June 2, 1997, will be making his 11th appearance in a red jersey when he plays on Saturday.
Gear, midfield back TK Moeke and Ethine Reeves will be presented with a framed embroidered pocket marking 10 games for the Bay.
Perhaps surprisingly for someone who has reached the heights, Gear said he was looking particularly forward to the presentation.
“To some people it might not seem much but if you’ve played for the Bay, worn the jersey, you understand what it means.”
Gear showed he had not lost the skills that made him one of the most clinical finishers in world rugby when he scored two tries for the New Zealand Barbarians against the Highlanders in June during the Super Rugby break.
Ngarimu, himself a former New Zealand Maori player, said that while the inclusion of Gear and Paringatai was fantastic, the backbone of the team was the local players.
“Rugby, like any team sport, is all about team and we’re fortunate to have loyal senior players and some exciting young players.”
Source : http://www.gisborneherald.co.nz