Check out the Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby squad announced on Wednesday, the loose forwards in particular.
One doesn't have to be a genius to work out there's plenty of depth there with the likes of Hurricane Gareth Evans, Highlander Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Baby Blacks Devan Flanders and Will Tremain, Samoan international Fa'alemiga Selesele and former Auckland Mitre 10 Cup player Josh Kaifa among them. So there should be because there is traditionally a high attrition rate in that department.
Magpies head coach Mark Ozich has already labelled Kaifa his "Mr Fix it". That's not because he doesn't rate Kaifa's chances of securing a starting role come Mitre 10 Cup time, far from it in fact. It's more a tribute to Kaifa's ability to cover all three loose forward positions.
Kaifa, 26, who made seven appearances for Auckland during the 2016 and '17 seasons, intends to use the Magpies final preseason outing of the season against the Manawatu Turbos at Park Island today to push his case for the No 7 jersey in the Magpies Championship opener against Southland in Invercargill on August 19. Should he achieve that it will be a remarkable comeback for Kaifa who collected a severe ankle injury in the May 2 preseason win against Tasman and only returned to action with a 15-minute stint off the subs bench for Clive in last month's Maddison Trophy final.
"I know there's a lot of competition among the loosies. I just have to put my best foot forward against the Turbos," Kaifa said yesterday.
With Evans expected to start at No 8 and Mikaele-Tu'u at blindside against the Stags Kaifa could get the openside role if he delivers today.
"I'm not too fussed on which position I play. If I was put on the wing I would play there," Kaifa said.
He admitted the two months he spent on the sideline was tough. However, Kaifa still attended every Magpies wider training group and Clive club side training session while he was on crutches.
"I had 20 minutes for Clive in the final and 15 last weekend against Waikato in Taupo. The aim is to have 40 against the Turbos. I'm about 80 per cent with the ankle at the moment but it will be 100 by the end of next week," Kaifa said.
He pointed out there was a good feeling within the Magpies squad and he agreed a win against the Turbos would be a confidence booster in the buildup to the Stags clash. After today's match the Magpies will go into camp.
Ozich said this week had been a tough one for his squad with players returning from Super Rugby duty and promotional duties to fit around training sessions. Evans and fellow Hurricane, prop Ben May, don't return until next week.
Tremain, fellow loosies Solomone Funaki and Hannon Brighouse, props Jason Long and Tim Farrell, first five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie and lock Geoff Cridge will all miss today's game with injuries. Hooker Jacob Devery has been released to play for the Saracens against Poverty Bay at Park Island tomorrow.
Magpies lock Tom Parsons will have plenty of knowledge on the Turbos after playing for them during the 2015, '16 and '17 seasons. Hawke's Bay age group product and former Baby Black Tim Cadwallader will start at hooker for the visitors.
Other Turbos familiar to the Magpies include lock Nick Crosswell, captain and openside flanker Antonio Kirikiri and halfback Kayne Hammington in the starting XV and substitute props Fraser Armstrong and Sean Paranihi.
Teams for the 1pm clash:
Hawke's Bay Magpies: JJ Taulagi, Michael Buckley, Stacey Ili, Pasqualle Dunn, Mason Emerson, Tiaan Falcon, Folau Fakatava, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Josh Kaifa, Devan Flanders, Sam Ulufonua, Tom Parsons, Joe Apikotoa, Ben Power, Mark Braidwood. Substitutes: Forwards, Kianu Kereru-Symes, Ash Dixon, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe, Michael Allardice, Fa'alemiga Selesele, Nathan Tweedy. Backs, Brad Weber, Sasa Tofilau, Shae Tucker, Danny Toala,
Manawatu Turbos: Junior Laloifi, Jono Ihaka, Rob Thompson, James Tofa, Te Rangatira Waitokia, Hamish Northcott, Kayne Hammington, Brice Henderson, Antonio Kirikiri (captain), Liam Mitchell, Nick Crosswell, Liam Hallam-Eames, Sione Asi, Tim Cadwallader, Faalelei Sione. Substitutes: Forwards, Sam Stewart, Fraser Armstrong, Sean Paranihi, Brad Tucker, Sam Wasley. Backs, Griffin Culver, Cody Hemi, Shai Wiperi.