Kenyan sevens star Charles Longwe is set to make his Baywide club rugby debut for Te Puke this weekend in a decent boost to the region's halfback stocks.
Longwe, better known as Chucky, will travel with Te Puke to Rotoiti on Saturday and coach Jeremy Cotter is confident the 22-year-old will get some game time.
Cotter spotted Longwe while on safari in Kenya last year, when the No9 was loading pineapples on to a flatbed truck on a road near the city of Thika, firing the fruit 40m on the fly.
Dazzled by his passing game, Cotter teed up a contract with French club Cheval Fumier Racing, a feeder club to top-14 champions Clermont, coached by Cotter's brother, Vern.
Longwe's meteoric rugby rise was capped when he made his sevens debut for Kenya in Hong Kong last week, scoring four times in pool play.
"He only flew in from Hong Kong on Tuesday but came straight to training and looked impressive," Cotter said. "He's fast, strong and has already learned several of our intricate lineout and scrum moves, so I've got a feeling he'll fit in pretty well."
Longwe's arrival is timely, with Steamers and Chiefs halfback Taniela Moa possibly making himself available for Tonga's World Cup campaign.
That would take Moa out of the latter part of the abbreviated ITM Cup season, leaving the race for the Steamers No9 jersey wide open, with former Hurricane Jason Spice also expected to join Mount Maunganui in the next few weeks.
Te Puke's international roster will be boosted even more in a fortnight by the arrival of Fijian wing Rana Laikabulat and Japanese prop Igotu Pushimori.
Other Baywide games tomorrow see Tauranga Sports travel to Whakatane Marist, first-round surprise packages Waikite hosting Mount, Te Puna heading to Whakarewarewa and Opotiki hosting Rangataua.
The Colts competition also kicks off tomorrow, featuring two pools of eight teams.
Premier (2.45pm): Rotoiti v Te Puke Sports, Emery Park; Whakatane Marist v Tauranga Sports, Rugby Park; Waikite v Mount Maunganui, Bellvue Rd; Whakarewarewa v Te Puna, Puarenga Park; Opotiki v Rangataua, Princess St.
Division one (2.45pm): Ruatoki v Marist St Michaels, Tuhoe Park; Te Teko v Greerton Marist, Dunderdale Park; Katikati v Rangiuru, Moore Park; Reporoa v Kahukura, Reporoa; Paroa v Ngongotaha, Lawson Park.
Blue Section: Rotoiti v Te Puke Sports, Emery Park; Whakatane Marist v Te Teko, Rugby Park; Waikite v Mount Maunganui, Bellvue Rd; Ruatoki v Te Puna, Tuhoe Park.
Gold Section: Opotiki v Rangataua, Opotiki Reserve; Judea v Edgecumbe, Maharia Winiata Park; Tauranga Sports v Greerton Marist, Tauranga Domain; Whakarewarewa v Marist St Michaels, Puarenga Park.