Ironing out the last of the bad habits of a season of club rugby will be highest on the agenda for the finalised Steelform Wanganui Heartland team in their last preseason match and first Cooks Gardens game against Wellington Development XV on Saturday.
Coach Jason Caskey has settled on his wider squad of 30, with four forwards coming out of the group named last weekend before the away victory over Hawke's Bay Saracens, including some who have other commitments.
Kieran Hussey and Ranato Tikoisolomone move to the Wanganui Toyota Development XV, while youngsters Jason Myers and Josefa Rokotakala, initially named as 'apprentices', have been chosen for the Heartland Hurricanes Under 20's for the next three weekends.
Caskey said the focus on Saturday is improving the basic set up and structures which will carry them through the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship campaign, which starts next weekend in Masterton against Wairarapa Bush, before the first home game with Meads Cup champions Thames Valley.
With those teams in mind, especially Thames Valley after they shocked both Wanganui and South Canterbury in the playoffs last year on the shoulders of a ruthless forward pack, Caskey's message to the team is efficient recycle and retention.
"A lot of it is working the speed, regenerate our own ball," he said.
"The big thing, really, is working hard on closing the daylight between the ball carrier and the cleaners.
"All the clubs were poor at it. There's a lot of turnover ball and slow ball.
"Every game we watched it was the same."
Caskey's take is interesting, as it was noted in club circles throughout the year about the high rate of penalties being doled out at the breakdowns – elevating goal kickers into becoming the strike weapons of their teams in tight games.
Good win for Wanganui Samoa over Manawatu Samoa
It was easy to just lay that issue at the feet of the young referees leading the current batch of WRFU officials, yet the Wanganui coaching staff noticed players hanging back for a moment at breakdowns or letting the first carrier just go themselves – which often led to messy turnovers or holding penalties.
This could have been because the franchise club players were needed in other roles, as on top of cleanout they were preparing for the second and third carries or setting themselves to assist their backlines.
Now they are in the Wanganui environment, Caskey wants those players to simply focus on primary tasks like moving simultaneously with the ball runner, instead of trying to be jack of all trades, elsewhere on the field.
"Then you don't have to battle [to keep the ball], it's easier to win the contact.
"Even the best players in club rugby try to take on too much to do, because they don't have the faith in the people around them, and it detracts from their own game.
"At our level, more that's the case [they] don't have to worry about other people."
The signs were good regarding the change in mindset over in Napier in the win over Saracens, which included strong discipline as Wanganui only gave away seven penalties in the match.
The goal for Heartland games to always be under 10 infringements per match, to avoid handicapping their opportunities.
"The last week, we only had one ball jackal [turnover] off us," said Caskey.
That focus will be necessary on Saturday because while Wanganui don't know much about their opposition from the capital, it is safe to say they should have some solid units up front.
"I've never seen a Wellington team, of any age grade, that's not big boys," said Caskey.
The 25-man Wellington Development XV squad had their first game together last Saturday, winning 29-21 over the full Wairarapa Bush team at the Hutt Recreation Ground.
Kickoff is at 2.30pm.
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A squad of 26 has been settled on for the Wanganui Toyota Development XV to begin the defence of their RDO Shield on Saturday at Cooks Gardens against last year's beaten finalists Wellington Maori.
Coming back from the wider Wanganui squad are Kieran Hussey and Ranato Tikoisolomone, front row forwards at club level this season, but also experienced as representative loose forwards.
Also added to the group from the players announced last week for the preseason away game with the Hawke's Bay Under 19's are Ezekiel Anderson, Hamish McKay, Kereti Tamou and Kayden Shedlock.
Absent from that lineup are Emitai Logadraudrau, Hadlee Hay-Horton, Mitchell Millar, Peter Travis Hay-Horton and Rory Gudsell.
Wellington Maori warmed up for their season with a 31-19 win over Wellington Samoa last Saturday in a game played in three sets of 30 minutes.
Kickoff will be at 12.45pm.
Also, the Wanganui Samoa side will be playing Wairarapa Bush B at Spriggens Park at 2pm, in a warmup to their last High Commissioners Cup game with Hawke's Bay Samoa next weekend.
The Development squad is:
Anaru Haerewa, Brad Graham, Bradley O'Leary, CJ Stowers, Cyrus Paringatai, Ezekiel Anderson, Fa'afetai Siona, Hamish McKay, Jack Yarrall, James Barrett, Jamie Hughes, Kereti Tamou, Kieran Hussey, Matt Brown, Matthew Ashworth, Pene Vui, Ranato Tikoisolomone, Royce Trow, Sefo Bourke, Shandon Scott, Sheldon Pakinga-Manhire, Te Kepa Grindlay, Te Uhi Hakaraia, Tipene Harrison, Viki Tofa, Kayden Shedlock.