The first act in what Bay of Plenty rugby supporters hope is the dawning of a new winning era was made yesterday with the naming of the Steamers' ITM Cup squad.

Head coach Clayton McMillan and assistant Rodney Gibbs have selected 15 uncapped players and 20 returning players.

Blues lock Culum Retallick and Tauranga Sports No8 Carl Axtens were named as co-captains of this year's team, who will be under no illusion regarding what is expected of them after the Steamers crashed to bottom of the second-tier Championship in 2014.

McMillan says they have gone a long way to achieving the balance between experienced players and those coming through the system.


"We know this is an extremely competitive competition and believe the players we have picked are good men, hardworking and motivated to perform," he said. "It is important this team represents our region. This is reflected in players from numerous clubs being represented in the final squad. We ideally would like to contract locally and we believe we have given everybody who has played Baywide rugby a fair crack.

"There were a few positions where we felt the quality was not there this year and that has forced our hand to go outside the province. We are really happy with the guys we have brought in and feel they are going to add some value.

"They have all been accepted into the group and trained very hard.

"We are looking forward to earning the respect of our supporters and stakeholders by playing with passion and a brand of rugby synonymous with the Bay of Plenty."

Notable new players are midfielders Terrence Hepetema (Leicester Tigers) and Lalakai Foketi (Melbourne Rebels), former Manawatu halfback Papa Wharewera, Canterbury hooker Seb Siataga, Wellington outside back Chase Tiatia, former Highlanders fullback Craig Clare, Waikato flanker Zac Hohneck and Hawke's Bay winger Brynn Uriarau.

Recent New Zealand Under-20 reps Aidan Ross and Troy Callender are seen as quality players with long-term futures in a Steamers jersey.

The top try scorer in the Bayfair Baywide competition, Te Rangi Fraser, from Whakarewarewa, was named at first-five alongside Dan Hollinshead and Nick Evemy, who has played for the Steamers in midfield.

Steamers 2015 ITM Cup Squad
Nathan Harris (Te Puke Sports); Joe Royal (Rotoiti); Seb Siataga (Canterbury)*

Solomona Sakalia (Mount Maunganui); Aidan Ross (Te Puke Sports)*; Siegfried Fisi'ihoi (Rotoiti); Pingi Tala'apitaga (Tauranga Sports); Mike Kainga (Mount Maunganui); Jeff Thwaites (Tauranga Sports)*

Tim Bond (Te Puke Sports); Troy Callander (Greerton Marist)*; Keepa Mewett (Tauranga Sports); Culum Retallick (Tauranga Sports), Brodie Retallick (Tauranga Sports)

Loose Forwards
Sam Cane (Tauranga Sports); Johan Bardoul (Mount Maunganui); Shahn Eru (Te Puna)*; Zak Hohneck (Rotoiti)*; Carl Axtens (Tauranga Sports); Joe Tupe (Greerton Marist)

Jono Kitto (Te Puke Sports); Te Aihe Toma (Te Puna); Papa Wharewera (Rotoiti)*

First five-eighths
Dan Hollinshead (Te Puke Sports); Nick Evemy (Tauranga Sports), Te Rangi Fraser (Whakarewarewa)

Midfield backs
Terrence Hepetema (Te Puna)*; Caleb Hall (Greerton Marist)*; Lalakai Foketi (Rangataua)*

Outside backs
Chase Tiatia (Rangataua)*; Leroy van Dam (Greerton Marist); Tino Nemani (Greerton Marist); Brynn Uriarau (Te Puke Sports)*; Craig Clare (Paroa)*; Whaimotu Craft-Chemis (Whakarewarewa)*

One player is still to be added to the squad.
Steamers pre-Season games

v Auckland, Rugby Park, Whakatane Friday July 31, 2pm

v Manawatu, Tauranga Domain, August 6, 2pm

ITM Cup Round 1

Bay of Plenty v North Harbour Baypark Stadium, Friday August 14

*New Steamers