Rugby: Masaga keen to take on Otago

By Greg Taipari

The Bay of Plenty Steamers may not have got the start they were after in the ITM Cup, but it hasn't knocked the confidence of their try-scoring machine Lelia Masaga.

Masaga was at his best in his side's 37-22 loss to Taranaki at Baypark Stadium at the weekend; scoring one of his team's tries and looking dangerous every time he touched the ball.

"I think it's good in general to get the cobwebs out of the legs. It's been a couple of weeks since I last played and I always enjoy coming back and playing for the Bay."

The right winger was part of the Chiefs' successful Super Rugby campaign this season. Although he was hampered with an injury in the first game of the Chiefs' season, his return showed he hadn't lost his speed or ability to find the tryline.

"I don't know if I find the tryline more like the tryline likes to find me. As a winger, it's my job to score tries. I always try to score one try a game and it was nice and made me happy, to get one early [against Taranaki]."

His try-scoring feats will be something he is hoping to continue when his side take on Otago at Rotorua International Stadium tomorrow.

Masaga said despite Saturday's loss, the boys were still feeling upbeat about tomorrow's match.

"It's an early game in the season, we don't need to panic. We have several more games and they are all important. We know the feeling [of losing], we know what it's like and know what we have to do to rectify it."

Otago will be brimming with confidence after their high-scoring affair against Northland in Dunedin at the weekend.

An impressive goal-kicking display by Hayden Parker and enterprising back play saw the South Islanders win 46-34.

Parker kicked 10 from 11 attempts, with Jayden Spence, Tamati Ellison, Tony Ensor and Buxton Popoali'i giving the blue and golds a bonus-point win.

Although co-coaches Phil Mooney and Andy Hunter are yet to release their team, it's hard to see them straying far from the combination that brought them success against Northland at home.

Otago appear to base their game around making fewer mistakes than their opponents and capitalising on those mistakes to give their outside men like Spence and Popoali'i the opportunity to show their class.

The Steamers will be looking for improvement on last week's performance, they showed plenty of impetus at times against Taranaki, but lacked polish.

Kevin Schuler hasn't named his squad, but with the All Blacks having a week off it will be interesting to see if Sam Cane gets the chance to play. It's been a long time between drinks for the openside flanker, but a blowout for the Steamers could be just what Cane needs.

As for the 22 who were named to play against Taranaki, barring injury it's hard to see any not retaining their places, apart from Lance MacDonald who deserves a crack in the starting line-up after his performance off the bench on Saturday. However, Schuler has to balance growing combinations with not letting players get too rusty from not enough game time.

Predicting who will win isn't that easy, a case could be made for both sides without either being wrong.

Kick-off for the match is 7.35pm.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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