Coach OK as Big Ben clocks off

By SHANE HURNDELL

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Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby coach Craig Philpott last night admitted to being happy about Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna taking up a two-year ITM Cup contract with Waikato.

"We were happy to let him go. It's a form-related decision and Ben came back to us out of shape last year," Philpott said.

The Magpies' decision to let the 2012 All Black training-squad member join Waikato was done after talks with former Magpies co-coach and Chiefs assistant coach Tom Coventry.

"Tom has invested quite a lot in Ben and hopefully by staying close to Tom after the Super Rugby season, Ben can play the rugby we all know he is capable of. Whether he can is up to Ben," Philpott said.

Tameifuna, 21, played 14 games for the Magpies since 2010. He was dropped for the last five ITM Cup games last year as he was overweight and struggled to recapture the form produced for the Chiefs as they won the Super Rugby title.

"There were a lot of influences here in the Bay which didn't help Ben's rugby career," Philpott said.

In November last year, Tameifuna, a 2011 New Zealand under-20 world champion player, appeared in court on driving-while-disqualified charges.

Tameifuna's New Zealand Secondary Schools coach and Hastings Rugby and Sports co-coach Karl Jones said it was a shame to see the prop go: "Ben had been in the Bay since he was 11 or 12 ... hopefully he will return some time in the future."

Jones said Tameifuna played 10 minutes for his Hastings club during a pre-season game against Central last week.

"Obviously we would have got little club rugby out of him because of his Super Rugby commitments but he will be a big acquisition for Waikato."

Tameifuna is on the Chiefs subs' bench for tonight's game against the Blues in Tauranga. Versatile Magpies back Andrew Horrell is also on the subs' bench and Magpies hooker Hika Elliot will start for the defending champions.

The Waikato union announced the signings of Hastings Boys' High School product Tameifuna and Highlanders hooker Brayden Mitchell on Wednesday. Mitchell is also on a two-year deal with Waikato, as is Napier Boys High School product Watene Waenga.

A brother of Magpies first five-eighth Dan Waenga, Waenga recently returned to Waikato after a stint in Australia. Waikato are one of three teams the Magpies aren't scheduled to meet in this season's ITM Cup.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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