Steamers coach Clayton McMillan has gone outside his 32-man squad and given three players a chance to suit up in the matchday 23 and impress in the team’s preseason outing this afternoon in Katikati.
The blue and golds take on Auckland at Moore Park at 2.45pm in their final hitout before their Mitre 10 launch next Saturday.
Sickness and injury have depleted the side’s locking resources resulting in a late call up to the starting 15 for Mt Maunganui’s Aaron Carrol, while Lars Morrice of Baywide champs Te Puke will take a spot on the bench alongside Valentine Meachen who takes the reserve hooker position.
Other notable starters include Te Puna’s Jeff Thwaites at prop and national under 20 rep Kaleb Trask in the number 10 jersey.
The familiar figures of Luke Campbell at halfback and Terrence Hepetema at second-five anchor a backline which is inexperienced but bristling with players of youthful attacking potential, including Matt Garland and Fa’asiu Fuatai on the wings, Liam Steel at centre and Bailey Simonsson at fullback.
An experienced bench will see the return of fullback Chase Tiatia following his super rugby duties, the introduction of prop Ross Geldenhyus, and All Blacks Sevens representative Trael Joass to cover outside back positions.
Following their wins over Manawatu and Wanganui in the Game of Three Halves in Taihape and over North Harbour last weekend in Ngaruawahia, the Steamers are gunning to finish their preseason programme unbeaten, but are expecting a tougher challenge from Auckland.
As much as he’d like to see a positive result, however, coach Clayton McMillan is just as keen to look at how some of his combinations click in the match, and give some of his lesser lights a last chance to push for starting positions for Saturday week’s Mitre 10 Cup opener in Rotorua against Taranaki.
The Katikati community are looking forward to a festival of rugby for this afternoon’s Seeka sponsored event.
Local schools will be closing early to allow students to attend, and Bay officials are expecting a healthy crowd lining the Moore Park sidelines.
Selected players have this morning joined Seeka to deliver kiwi fruit to local schools including Katikati Primary and Omokoroa Point.
The match kicks off at 2.45pm, and is preceded by Katikati College 1st XV taking on Opotiki College 1st XV in the Toi Ohomai Baywide Secondary Schools Division Two semi-final at 12.30, followed by a Bay of Plenty Invitational Sevens side taking on Japanese Select Women’s Sevens team at 2.10.
Admission is free.
Bay of Plenty Steamers:
1 James Lay, 2 Liam Polwart, 3 Jeff Thwaites, 4 Aaron Carrol, 5 Tyler Ardron, 6 Hugh Blake, 7 Mitch Karpik, 8 Hoani Matenga, 9 Luke Campbell, 10 Kaleb Trask, 11 Matt Garland, 12 Terrence Hepetema, 13 Liam Steel, 14 Fa’asiu Fuatai, 15 Bailey Simonsson.
Reserves: 16 Valentine Meachen, 17 Solomona Sakalia, 18 Ross Geldenhyus, 19 Lars Morrice, 20 Ajay Mua, 21 Richard Judd, 22 Trael Joass, 23 Chase Tiatia, 24 Tevita Mafileo.