Rugby: Counties Manukau and Bay of Plenty desperate to get on the board

By Campbell Burnes

Augustine Pulu will take the field as Counties Manukau's captain. Photo / photosport.co.nz
Augustine Pulu will take the field as Counties Manukau's captain. Photo / photosport.co.nz

Three Rio Olympians are back for this Sunday's Steelers-Steamers Mitre 10 Cup crossover clash in Pukekohe.

August Pulu will suit up at halfback and Sione Molia on the wing for Counties Manukau, while Regan Ware will come off the bench for the Steamers.

Both sides will be desperate for competition points after opening round defeats.

Steelers coach Darryl Suasua has made no less than seven changes to his starting XV, one of them injury-enforced, with flanker Fotu Lokotui breaking his leg against North Harbour. Jordan Taufua will wear the No 7 jersey, as he did on occasion under Tana Umaga.

Bay of Plenty will not be underestimated, despite falling 30-22 to Taranaki, and they too have made several changes.

"They've got some good individual players that can break open a game from anywhere. A guy like (No 8) Joe Tupe can do all sorts of things, so we have to be really tight on our defence," says Suasua.

He knows the Steelers cannot afford the flat patches that were evident against North Harbour and would love to see more consistency with the rulings at the breakdown as the trial laws are bedded in.

"Watching all the games, you can't guarantee the breakdown ball will be the ball you want because there's feet all over it and the timing's out. We've done a bit of work on that and how we can still run off that ball," says Suasua.

Counties Manukau: Luteru Laulala, Sione Molia, Sam Vaka, Cardiff Vaega, Sherwin Stowers, Piers Francis, August Pulu (c), So'otala Fa'aso'o, Jordan Taufua, Jimmy Tupou (c), Matiaha Martin, Viliame Rarasea, Kalolo Tuiloma, Gafatasi Sua, Sean Bagshaw; Reserves: Suliasi Taufalele, Jarred Adams, Sione Faletau, Savelio Ropati, Viliami Taulani, Jonathan Taumateine, Joe Reynolds, Joseph Ikenasio

Bay of Plenty: Te Rangi Fraser, Monty Ioane, Lalakai Foketi, Terrence Hepetema, Isaac Te Aute, Kelly Haimona, Te Aihe Toma, Joe Tupe, Hugh Blake, Jesse Parete, Keepa Mewett, Culum Retallick, Pingi Tala'apitaga, Liam Polwart, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi; Reserves: James O'Reilly, Aidan Ross, Jeff Thwaites, Troy Callander, Shahn Eru, Henry Stowers, Ruki Tipuna, Regan Ware

Counties Manukau (P) v Bay of Plenty (C)
ECOLight Stadium, Pukekohe
Sunday, 4.35pm

- NZ Herald

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