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2011 ITM Cup Preview - Manawatu

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James Mortimer     07 Jul 2011     Getty Images

The Turbos named a host of emerging players in their first pre-season ITM Cup clash against Wellington, and the Manawatu region is certainly giving local players their chance.

Jared Brock, Junior Tomasi Cama, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisea Qiokata and Api Koroi may not be household names, but are indicative of the options available to Manawatu as they look to build on their results over the last two years.

While they have finished in the bottom end of the table, their results have shown the promise in the team.

Last season they beat Wellington, Tasman and Otago, while giving ITM Cup champions Canterbury a huge fright before going down 27-26. In the 2009 competition they defeated Otago, North Harbour, Southland and Counties-Manukau, and were competitive against Auckland, Hawkes-Bay, Waikato and Bay of Plenty.

Pre-season games may not count for much when the competition begins, but a 10-7 loss to Wellington at FMG Stadium last week showed how spirited they can be, with the men from the capital scoring via Jason Woodward in the 79th minute to deny Manawatu what would have been their fourth victory in a row against the Lions.

With Manawatu hosting Bay of Plenty this weekend in their final pre-season match, there will be hope of a home win before they open their ITM Cup campaign proper against Hawke’s Bay – again in front of their loyal supporters – on Saturday July 16.

The infamous Manawatu Bucketheads will no doubt be in firm voice, with the curious supporters group (who were green buckets on their head) founded by Opiki spud farmer Dom Moleta in 2006.

This season they are even looking for a new ‘Head Bucket’.

Assuming Southland don’t wrestle it back in round three, Manawatu will also have an opportunity to play for the Ranfurly Shield, heading to Christchurch on July 30 for a challenge.

A famous upset against the champions would be something to etch in the record books, a throwback to Manawatu’s glory days when the held the Shield from 1976 to 1978, and won the NPC in 1980.

Irrespective of this, the region’s squad looks in good health, with ten of their players already locked in for the 2012 season – with three of them Investec Super Rugby players in Nick Crosswell, Aaron Smith and David Te Moana.

Aaron Cruden has still not confirmed his plans beyond this season, but Manawatu will be hopeful he remains with the side – the union’s first All Blacks representative since fullback Christian Cullen.

Last season: Thirteenth
Division: Championship


Final 2011 Manawatu squad:
(Name, Position, DOB, Club, Height, Weight, Games Played)

Jared Brock, Prop 05.09.83 Varsity 1.86 115 0
Karl Bryson, Halfback 20.03.89 COB 1.75 83 11
Tomasi Cama, Utility back 11.11.80 COB 1.75 82 48
Craig Clare, Fullback/wing 19.08.84 Feilding 1.84 95 28
Mitchell Crosswell, Number 8 14.11.88 Varsity 1.90 106 8
Nick Crosswell, Flanker 03.04.86 Feilding 1.95 110 40
Aaron Cruden, First five-eighth 08.01.89 COB 1.78 84 20
Ma'afu Fia, Prop 22.11.89 Kia Toa 1.80 126 22
Michael Fitzgerald, Lock 03.02.87 Te Kawau 1.97 112 25
Rob Foreman, Hooker 27.05.84 Varsity 1.79 103 58
Eugene Gerrard, Hooker 19.11.86 COB 1.81 113 0
Callum Gibbins, Flanker 14.09.88 Varsity 1.86 100 12
Hamish Gosling, Number 8 28.10.88 COB 1.93 110 45
Kapiolani Kaufasi, Prop 16.09.81 Kia Toa 1.88 117 0
Daniel Kelly, First five-eighth 01.12.86 Sydney University 1.73 85 0
Johnny Leota, Centre 21.01.84 OB Marist 1.82 101 56
Reupena Leilua, Prop 01.05.82 OB Marist 1.86 118 0
Lewis Marshall, Fullback 29.08.88 FOB Orua 1.86 92 2
Nehe Milner-Skudder, Wing 15.12.90 OB Marist 1.80 90 0
James Oliver, Flanker 29.08.84 Varsity 1.89 100 10
Brett Pigott, Midfield 23.07.87 COB 1.73 85 0
Grant Polson, Prop 01.11.80 Varsity 1.90 115 52
Waisea Qiokata, Wing 14.01.87 OB Marist 1.85 95 0
Reece Robinson, Lock 18.12.77 OB Marist 1.94 111 19
Aaron Smith, Halfback 21.11.88 Feilding 1.71 82 32
Fraser Stone, Lock 13.06.88 Kia Toa 1.96 112 13
Bryn Templeman, Hooker 03.02.88 Kia Toa 1.74 96 1
David Te Moana, Prop 16.02.82 Te Kawau 1.92 128 38
Doug Tietjens, Flanker 17.02.84 Te Kawau 1.85 101 34
Aseli Tikoirotuma, Centre 24.06.86 Te Kawau 1.87 91 7
Isaac Thompson, First five-eighth 04.01.90 Varsity 1.83 94 26