ITM Cup rugby: The path to revenge

By SHANE HURNDELL

In Samoa, Crusaders or Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby colours it's fair to say skilful halfback Kahn Fotuali'i has been on the verge of unstoppable this year.
Fotuali'i hopes a severe bout of the flu doesn't stop him from making his final appearance for the Magpies in tonight's ITM Cup crossover clash against the Bay of Plenty Steamers in Rotorua. Tomorrow Fotuali'i, lock Kane Thompson and props Anthony Perenise and Logovi'i Mulipola and co-coach Tom Coventry will leave the Magpies to continue their World Cup buildup with Samoa and after the World Cup Fotuali'i will start a two-year contract with the Ospreys club in Wales.
"It's one of those flu bugs which causes your body to ache all over," explained Fotuali'i while dressed like an Eskimo as he watched the Magpies train at Napier's Park Island on Thursday.
"I picked it up on Saturday night and haven't been able to train all week. I've been resting and keeping the fluid intake up," he said.
"I want to help the Magpies get the Steamers back for what they did to us last year and go out in style," said Fotuali'i referring to last year's 30-11 loss, a game Fotuali'i describes as the worst of his 17 with the Magpies.
There's a chance Fotuali'i, 29, may return to the Magpies in the future but he pointed out there is also a chance he could remain in the United Kingdom longer than two years "depending on opportunities".
"As a rugby community Hawke's Bay has been amazing. Everyone is really supportive of the Magpies and [the] team has been playing well ... I've enjoyed having my input into the team's mix and it's been good fun," said the former Nelson Bays and Tasman representative.
The Auckland born Fotuali'i has heard talk suggesting he could have been an All Black this year had he not opted to play for Samoa.


"I'm pretty happy with my decision. I might have got a little look in with the ABs ... they've got so many good players."
He has also heard talk Samoa are likely to join South Africa as the Pool D qualifiers for the World Cup quarterfinals.
"We can take a lot of confidence out of our win against Australia last month and build on it. But that was on that day ... the World Cup is a different setting and every team wants to reach the quarterfinals," said Fotuali'i.
"If we can nail the little things and perfect the things we've done right ... we're in with a chance."
Tonight's clash with the Steamers will give Fotuali'i an early look at the International Stadium where Samoa open their World Cup campaign against Namibia on September 14. The Samoan team will play two games against the Force in Samoa during the next fortnight before assembling in Auckland.
He has no doubt the Magpies can reach the championship final without their Samoan contingent.
"As long as they keep playing together as a team the boys will be back up in the Premiership next year," said Fotuali'i.
Playing as a team will be a must if the Magpies are to maintain this season's unbeaten run against their Premiership opponents tonight. Some patience will be required as the Steamers will play with plenty of passion in the feature match of the Bay of Plenty union's centenary celebrations which is expected to attract 10,000 fans.
Magpies co-coaches Tom Coventry and Peter Russell have decided to swap the wings Gillies Kaka and Richard Buckman, who played against Wellington. No doubt they are hoping Buckman's defensive qualities will restrict the freedom of Steamers matchwinner Lelia Masaga.
Former Magpie Colin Bourke will captain the Steamers from No.8. Other former Magpies in the host side are starting first five-eighth Dan Waenga and lock Leighton Price who is likely to be on the subs bench.
THE TEAMS
* Hawke's Bay Magpies: Mark Jackman; Richard Buckman, Tu Umaga-Marshall, Zac Guildford; Andrew Horrell, Daniel Kirkpatrick; Kahn Fotuali'i; Mike Coman (captain); Karl Lowe, Kane Thompson, Bryn Evans, Trent Boswell-Wakefield; Anthony Perenise, Hika Elliot, Hikairo Forbes.
Susbstitutes, forwards: Kaas Lealamanua, Logovi'i Mulipola, Ben Tameifuna, Brodie Retallick, Adam Bradey. Backs: Isaac Paewai, Tua Saseve, Israel Dagg.
* BOP Steamers: Toby Arnold; Lelia Masaga, Phil Burleigh, Jason Hona; Steve Kefu, Dan Waenga; Jamie Nutbrown; Colin Bourke (captain); Luke Braid, Culum Retallick/Leon Power, Luke Andrews, Tanerau Latimer; Josh Hohneck, John Pareanga, Tristan Moran.
Substitutes: Forwards, Dan Perrin, Pingi Talaapitaga/Greg Pleasants Tate, Bronson Murray, Leon Power/Leighton Price, Sam Cane; backs, Josh Hall, Chris Noakes, Lance MacDonald.
* Kick-off: 5.35pm today at Rotorua International Stadium (live on Sky).
 

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