Five old timers who will show they still have it

NZ Rugby World - - Mitre 10 Cup Preview -

1 Alex Ain­ley [Tas­man]

Is he try­ing to break Brad Thorn’s records? Most im­por­tant is 36 year-old Ain­ley’s undi­min­ished out­put at Su­per Rugby level where his tackling per­cent­age and over­all work rate was still team-lead­ing.

Ben­e­fit­ting from play­ing his younger rugby in Ja­pan and Italy, Ain­ley still has the verve and his body is hold­ing up – for the most part – fine. For the Makos, Ain­ley pro­vides a sure pick at lock and en­ables his coaches to work around him. In his gruff way, is still en­joy­ing him­self.

2 Dwayne Sweeney [Waikato]

Fif­teen years af­ter his first game for Waikato, Sweeney re­turns to join Stephen Don­ald and Liam Mes­sam as the veter­ans. Like the other two, Sweeney may not play ev­ery game on of­fer, but the con­fi­dence and knowl­edge the el­der states­men pass down is the in­tan­gi­ble as­set to the union.

Coming from the more suc­cess­ful days of Waikato teams past, the mid­fielder will in­ject some much needed pride and pas­sion into the jer­sey which hasn’t made the play­offs since 2011.

3 Jarrad Hoeata [North Har­bour]

He left New Zealand with his po­ten­tial un­ful­filled. For Har­bour, they will at least rely on weekly phys­i­cal­ity, tech­ni­cal pro­fi­ciency and street smarts against young pro­vin­cial up­starts.

Three-test All Black Hoeata’s time at Cardiff Blues will have made him even gnarlier in the tight stuff and he will ably fill the hole left by last sea­son’s cap­tain, Chris Vui. A much needed ac­qui­si­tion for Har­bour to stay in the Pre­mier­ship.

4 Tim Boys [South­land]

The Stags need some­thing [any­thing] that re­sem­bles good news lead­ing into the 2017 sea­son and the feel-good fac­tor comes in the shape of 34-year-old Boys.

The leath­ery tackling ma­chine is coming off an eight-month rugby sab­bat­i­cal at his own be­hest and the hunger to smash rucks and tackle fast-mov­ing be­he­moths has re­turned.

For a South­land team that has be­come the least sought af­ter jer­sey for up and coming play­ers in re­cent years, hav­ing Boys around is a sig­nif­i­cant boon.

5 Liam Mes­sam [Waikato]

Fill­ing up the Mooloo bus’s back seat with Stephen Don­ald and Sweeney, Mes­sam has been around since 2003 and there isn’t much he hasn’t done in the game.

Although the speed that made him such a dy­namic flanker has dis­si­pated with age and cor­ro­sion, his big­gest worth to Waikato is his IP. Mes­sam’s mana is an as­set for coach Sean Bother­way and even if he doesn’t get the lion’s share of the min­utes, his in­flu­ence on the train­ing pitch will trans­late to game day. Will more than hold his own on the field too.

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