Sevens measure up

By Gary Caffell


Rugby

Wairarapa-Bush will be very much the minnows in their pool at the national sevens rugby tournament to be played in Queenstown on January 12-13.

They will face home side Otago in their opening game, followed by Hawke's Bay and North Harbour.

Wairarapa-Bush can, however, take heart from the fact they have already shown they can foot it with the big guns on the sevens scene.

They qualified for the nationals by placing fourth at the central region tournament in Palmerston North last weekend and probably provided the major talking point of that entire event when they upset Wellington 26-17. And they did it the hard way, fighting back after conceding two early tries.

Whether they will have the services of their coach, New Zealand sevens star Lote Raikabula, at the Queenstown tourney remains to be seen. National squad members were not allowed to play in Palmerston North and that could be the case again.

From all accounts, however, the Raikabula influence was still patently obvious with Wairarapa-Bush showing a better tactical appreciation of sevens than many of the other teams on show there, and also comparing favourably on the score of fitness.

The fact there is a strong Pacific Island flavour in the Wairarapa-Bush squad is another plus as players from that part of the world are often well versed in the skills necessary to shine at sevens.

The likes of Inia Katia, Mataitini Naimusudroka, Rupeni Tamankaiyori and Timoci Vatuloka have all made a positive statement on the local 15-a-side scene here as well, particularly Katia, who has been a regular member of the Heartland championship squad over the past couple of seasons.

Katia's ability to create space for himself even in the most confined of spaces makes him a natural for the sevens game and some good judges are predicting he could be playing on the international circuit in the not-too-distant future. Two others in the Wairarapa-Bush sevens line-up who have made their presence felt at Heartland level are Johan van Vliet and Cameron Hayton, who were standouts during the 2012 campaign when Wairarapa-Bush made it all the way to the Meads Cup semis.

On the other side of the coin, the sevens team also includes three players who were part of the college scene earlier this year in Daniel Nicho, Daryl Pickering and Carlos Rimene.

They, too, appear to have a grand future in this form of the game.

Having their side qualify for the national sevens would normally have placed a big burden on the finances of the cash-strapped Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union but, fortunately, this won't be the case as their trip south is being fully funded by sponsors.

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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