Rugby nomad Nathan Kendrick doesn't care what number is on the back of his Horowhenua-Kāpiti rugby jersey, as long as he's wearing one.

The 25-year-old carpenter from Kāpiti, who returns to the team after a two-year rugby safari in Canada, was a natural number seven, although he was happy to play hooker when required.

He saw similarities in the modern game between hooker and flanker anyway, with the modern hooker acting like a fourth loose forward.

For tomorrow's match against South Canterbury in Timaru, the former NZ Heartland representative is on the bench wearing jersey number 19. But that's cool.


"It's just good to be onboard...I don't mind where I play as long as I am on the park," he said.

Kendrick left Paraparaumu for Canada after the 2017 season and hooked up with the University side Old Boy Ravens, winning the British Colombian championship twice.

As the Canadian rugby season ran from September to March, with a break in the middle, he was also able to dabble in rugby league playing the off-season for the Vancouver Dragons at prop.

He was introduced to the 13-man code by Ravens teammate Aaron McLelland, who was formerly from Gisborne, and he enjoyed the chance to taste league and the long run ups after a restart.

"I always tried to chuck in a little step," he said.

But there were stark differences in the way Canadians played rugby, he said. There was a heavy accent on physicality and being strong, with the aim to go over the man, rather than beat him with pace or guile.

"Instead of trying to run around you they will try and go through you. It's all about being strong," he said.

"You learn how to tackle pretty quick."

In between times be played for the NZ Ambassadors XV in Prague, an experience he said he enjoyed.


Back home, although Kendrick had missed the recent Horowhenua-Kāpiti club season, he was eligible for the representative team under the status of a returning player, under which each union was allowed one each season.

Horowhenua-Kāpiti coach Chris Wilton had no qualms about ushering Kendrick into the squad, despite the fact he hadn't had a game of rugby for more than two months.

"No qualms at all. He's a class player and is would probably be one the fittest in the team," he said.

Wilton had carried a large squad this season with a heap of players being called up for various national commitments.

Aaron Lahmert, Willie Paua'aua, Timoci Seruwalu and Scott Cameron come back into the team after playing for New Zealand Heartland side against Manu Samoa at Eden Park last weekend.

But while that quartet walk in one door, they wave goodbye to five players for the next three weeks walking out the other

Shae Gray has been picked for the NZ U19 Heartland team, while Jaxon Tagavaitau, Tainui Woodmass, Hamiona Thomas and Logan Broughton all join the NZ Defence Force team for a short tour of Japan.

Wilton said while the timing was not ideal, it was an incredible opportunity for those players picked for higher honours, and he was confident he had the right players to fill their boots.

Horowhenua-Kāpiti was looking to steady the ship after their narrow loss to West Coast at Levin Domain last weekend, after a good first-up win the previous week.

That included seeking clarification from officials through emails around the breakdown law, as his side were whistled at hard last week and were on the wrong end of the penalty count.

In the second half there were five penalties in a row that went against them, and Wilton wanted to ensure that any grey areas around interpretation of law quickly became black and white.

Kendrick will be joined on the bench by newcomers Christian Tahiwi-MacMillan, Michael Laursen and Ropati Palaae, who all get a chance to impress.

Horowhenua-Kāpiti: 1 Robin Praat. 2 Dean Ropata 3 Scott Cameron. 4 Isaaka Ulutoa. 5 Sonny Woodmass. 6 Thomas Zimmerman. 7 Aaron Lahmert. 8 Nardus Erasmus. 9 Kane Tamou. 10 Ethan Reti. 11 Willie Paia'aua. 12 Timoci Seruwalu. 13 Junior Laloifi. 14 Henare Himiona. 15 Cody Hemi. 16 David McErlean. 17 Jordan Tupai-Ui. 18 Ropati Palaae. 19 Nathan Kendrick. 20 Trent Reti. 21 Christian Tahiwi-MacMillan. 22 Michael Laursen.