The New Zealand Heartland XV team has been named for this weekend’s match against the New Zealand Barbarians, with the side set to wear jerseys in support of regional Covid-19 vaccination efforts.
“Two Jabs Job done” will feature on the front of the jerseys, aimed at encouraging regional communities to get vaccinated.
New Zealand Heartland XV Head Coach Nigel Walsh said the team recognised the importance of vaccinations in the fight against Covid-19.
“We want to make sure we keep the team safe, keep the community safe, and also keep our own whānau back home safe as well. It’s very important for us to be double vaccinated.”
Walsh has selected South Canterbury’s Nick Strachan to captain and Campbell Hart and Craig Clare as vice captains, and said the team were focused on delivering a performance to be proud of.
“It’s always exiting and a privilege to be coaching a New Zealand Heartland side. It’s not every day you get to put that silver fern on your chest and it’s not every day you get to be a coach of a New Zealand side. It’s a really exciting time for us to go out there and do the job for New Zealand heartland provincial unions around the country.”
The New Zealand Heartland XV team is:
1. Vaka Taelega (South Canterbury)
2. Sam Van der Valk (Thames Valley)
3. Tokomaata Fakatava (South Canterbury)
4. Campbell Hart (Vice Captain) (Whanganui)
5. Connor McVerry (Thames Valley)
6. Hone Haerewa (Ngāti Porou East Coast)
7. Nick Strachan (Captain) (South Canterbury)
8. Seta Koroitamana (Mid Canterbury)
9. Willie Wright (South Canterbury)
10. Craig Clare (Vice Captain) (Whanganui)
11. Hayden Todd (North Otago)
12. Paula Fifita (South Canterbury)
13. Nick Foxley (Mid Canterbury)
14. Raitube Vasurakuta (Mid Canterbury)
15. Zac Saunders (South Canterbury)
16. Callum Burrell (Mid Canterbury)
17. James Higgins (Poverty Bay)
18. Te Huia Kutia (Thames Valley)
19. Manasa Samo Bari (Mid Canterbury)
20. Stefan Destounis (Poverty Bay)
21. Lindsay Horrocks (Whanganui)
22. Dane Whale (Whanganui)
23. Tevita Halafihi (Thames Valley)
Head Coach: Nigel Walsh (South Canterbury)
Assistant Coach: Jason Hamlin (Whanganui)
Manager: Tony Harrison (Mid Canterbury)
Trainer: Slade King (King Country)
Physio: Geoff Thompson (South Canterbury)
Doctor: Coll Campbell (Poverty Bay)
With a short preparation leading into the weekend’s game, Walsh said the team were building well.
“The first couple of days was about connectivity with the boys, making sure they get the comms going and talking. Today the intensity ramps up a little more and then Friday afternoon is our Test match training run. The boys are coming together well and you can see that they’re all happy and smiling.
“We want to be a proud 2021 New Zealand Heartland team in what we do and how we go about things. It’s about concentrating on us. We know they’re going to bring the speed and physicality and we’ve got to make sure we get in their face and slow their momentum down.”
Poverty Bay Rugby Football Union Chief Executive Josh Willoughby said the 12 Heartland Unions were supportive of the team getting behind vaccination efforts in rural communities.
“The Heartland team is full of amateur players who play for the love of it and proudly represent where they come from. This is a really strong message from the team to encourage everyone to get vaccinated and future-proof our heartland regions.
“We want to thank our communities for playing their part in the fight to protect our whānau against Covid-19. Higher vaccination rates will help shift the dial and move us into the orange and green traffic lights.”
The New Zealand Heartland XV match will be live on Sky Sport, Sunday 5 December at 2pm. Due to Covid-19 restrictions the game at Owen Delany Park, Taupō is not open to the public.
Watch the Two Jabs Job done message of support from the New Zealand Heartland XV
New Zealand Heartland XV v New Zealand Barbarians
Sunday 5 December, 2pm
Owen Delany Park, Taupō
Live on Sky Sport