Rugby: Jackson's crew realistic semis chance

By Campbell Burnes

Pita Ahki is in the North Harbour squad. Photo / Christine Cornege
Pita Ahki is in the North Harbour squad. Photo / Christine Cornege

North Harbour are aiming for the ITM Championship semifinals this season and that looks a realistic goal when you examine their squad.

The only way is up for the 2013 cellar-dwellers, but new coach Steve Jackson has chosen a 34-man group which features plenty of flair and talent in the backs and some hard workers and experience in the pack.

"I came to this union to be successful. This group has the ability to get us to the semis," said Jackson, whose astute coaching helped mould a young Counties Manukau pack into a provincial force in 2012-13.

He is looking forward to ironing out any kinks in this pack, but is playing a waiting game to see if Ben Afeaki's concussion symptoms clear.

Former NZ Under-20 lock Chris Vui is due back next month from a knee injury, the same affliction which has all but ruled out fullback Marty Swart for the campaign.

Chiefs and former Southland Stag Robbie Robinson should slot in at the back once he finishes rehab on his hip issue.

Wing Tevita Li will be hot to trot, while 10/12 Matt McGahan, who should have seen some game time with the Blues, will run the cutter.

The pre-season programme shows a game tomorrow against Waikato in Raglan and Counties Manukau on Saturday at Onewa Domain. ITM Cup preparations will be rounded out on August 8 with a triple-header game against the All Blacks and Northland, billed "The Game of Three Halves".

Jackson confirmed weekend media reports that he had thrown his hat in the ring for the Blues assistant coach post. He said he had the blessing of the North Harbour union.

North Harbour squad
Pita Ahki, Ben Afeaki, David Bason, Rodrigo Costa, Luke Devcich, James Doyle, Michael Farmer, Irwin Finau, Daniel Halangahu, Bryn Hall, Luke Hamilton, Zak Judge, Tevita Li, Michael Little, Sione Mafileo, Jordan Manihera, Matt McGahan, Nic Mayhew, Brandon Nansen, Ray Nuia, James Parsons, Greg Pleasants-Tate, David Raikuna, Nio Ratumaitavuki, Robbie Robinson, Adrian Smith, Marty Swart, Hayden Triggs, Nafi Tuitavake, Jona Tuitoga, Jim Tuivaiti, Chris Vui, Tony Woodcock, Alex Woonton.

- NZ Herald

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