Auckland rugby has a proud tradition of outstanding captains and the next player to join the list of provincial skippers is TJ Faiane.
The Pakuranga club midfielder steps into the shoes of Patrick Tuipulotu, who is on All Blacks’ duty and unlikely to play again in the blue and white hoops this season.
Fresh from his blazer game appearance against Otago last week, Faiane will combine with George Moala in the midfield for Saturday’s critical Mitre 10 Cup crossover match against Bay of Plenty at Eden Park.
“TJ is a good communicator and leader within the team. The players look up to him and respect what he says,” says head coach Nick White.
He’s passionate about Auckland and finishing the round-robin season well.”
Faiane’s return to the starting XV is one of five changes from the 34-26 defeat to Otago. All Blacks Sevens player Joe Ravouvou, who made five appearances in 2016, will make his first start of 2017 on the left wing, with Melani Nanai dropping back to fullback.
Taleni Seu is back in the No 6 jersey and his re-introduction means Auckland can carry two loose forwards on the bench in Sinclair Dominikovich-Murray and Dalton Papali’i.
Lock Jamie Lane replaces Tuipulotu after making his debut against Otago, while Kurt Eklund’s energy off the pine has won him the No 2 berth.
There are potential debuts off the bench for Eden’s lively halfback Nico Costa and Auckland Under 19 five-eighths Harry Plummer, who scored 60 points for the championship winning team at the Jock Hobbs Memorial National Under 19 tournament.
“Nico had a really good club season for Eden and demands a spot through his form for the Auckland Bs. He’s a lively customer. Harry is a fine young player and a big part of our future.” says White.
Former All Blacks and Auckland coach Sir Graham Henry, who won four straight NPCs with the province from 1993-96 and two in 2002-03 as technical advisor, has lent a helping hand this week at training.
“It’s been good having Sir Graham within our environment. He’s provided advice where needed, and offered assistance when there were opportunities to improve. He’s a proud Aucklander and has a helluva history with this team,” White says.
The Steamers are right in the thick of the Championship semi-final race, and are coming off a 31-all draw with Counties Manukau.
“They are a good side with a hard-working forward pack and a lively set of backs. For us, it’s about building, being patient, and not playing too much rugby in our half. It’s a very important game for us with a lot at stake back in front of our fans,” White adds.
Auckland won the 2016 John Drake Memorial Boot 44-38 in Rotorua. Rieko Ioane scored a hat-trick.
It is Mitre 10 Cup Charity Day round and major sponsor Barfoot & Thompson will generously donate $2000 to Starship Hospital for each Auckland try and $1000 for each successful Auckland penalty goal. Other gold coin donations to volunteer collectors are welcome.
The 2.45pm curtainraiser features the unbeaten Auckland B versus Taranaki B. The home side have already won the Coronation Shield for the northern region B competition.
- Tickets for adults are $26 and kids are free. This includes up to the age of 18 and under which encompasses secondary schools.
Auckland match-day 23 for Bay of Plenty
Saturday September 30, 5.05pm, Eden Park:
15 Melani Nanai (Manukau, 21)
14 Vince Aso (Ponsonby, 35)
13 George Moala (Grammar TEC, 51)
12 TJ Faiane (Pakuranga, 14, c)
11 Joe Ravouvou (College Rifles, 5)
10 Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald (University, 7)
9 Jono Hickey (Grammar TEC, 29)
8 Akira Ioane (Ponsonby, 24)
7 Blake Gibson (Ponsonby, 18)
6 Taleni Seu (Grammar TEC, 18)
5 Ben Nee-Nee (Pakuranga, 12)
4 Jamie Lane (Ponsonby, 1)
3 Marcel Renata (University, 18)
2 Kurt Eklund (University, 29)
1 Sam Prattley (Pakuranga, 40)
16 Greg Pleasants-Tate (Ponsonby, 22)
17 Emersen Tamura-Paki (College Rifles, 6)
18 Dexter Fa’amoana (College Rifles, 2)
19 Sinclair Dominikovich-Murray (University, 5)
20 Dalton Papali’i (Pakuranga, 1)
21 Nico Costa (Eden, 0) +
22 Harry Plummer (Grammar TEC, 0) +
23 Tumua Manu (College Rifles, 2)
+Potential Auckland debut
Injured/unavailable: Tom McHugh (season), Jamason Fa’anana-Shultz (season), Scott Scrafton (season), Leon Fukofuka (season), Michael Fatialofa (season), Daniel Bowden, Samuel Slade, Malakai Fekitoa
All Blacks: Rieko Ioane, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Jerome Kaino, Patrick Tuipulotu