Quartet lost for ITM Cup playoffs
Just four Waikato players will take part in the All Blacks end of year tour to Hong Kong, Great Britain and Ireland.
Stephen Donald, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Mils Muliaina and Liam Messam will make the five-match trip after the 30-man squad was named on Sunday.
Fellow title contenders Canterbury have had eight players picked while Auckland have six going on tour.
Muliaina has hardly worn the Waikato colours this season thanks to international duties while Sivivatu has been out with injury though he will be playing in Waikato’s final pool game this Friday against Canterbury.
Messam and Donald will be big losses for Waikato. Messam has been strong all season and Donald has played four fantastic games since returning from injury. It is that form which has seen the first-five recalled to the All Blacks at the expense of Manawatu’s Aaron Cruden and Colin Slade of Canterbury.
‘‘Stephen Donald is playing at a level he’s never played at before,’’ All Blacks coach Graham Henry said. ‘‘He’s been astronomical and has turned that Waikato side around, he’s been a game breaker for them and run that ship superbly.
‘‘It’s very difficult on Colin Slade and Aaron Cruden because they’ve done everything they can.
‘‘They’ve played well too and talking to them this morning, I said to them ‘guys you can’t do any more, it’s no reflection on what you’ve tried to do, it’s a reflection on somebody else playing a wee bit better’.’’
Donald is the only back-up to Dan Carter in the squad so will expect a heavy workload as Carter recovers from ankle surgery.
Messam is one of just five loose forwards in the squad and should be a regular feature off the bench.
Muliaina will naturally be the firstchoice at full back and Sivivatu will be competing for the number 11 jersey with cousin Joe Rokocoko and Wellington’s Hosea Gear.
Sivivatu is the only All Black squad member in ITM Cup this weekend.
The Mooloos sit in third place equal with Auckland on 40 points but with an inferior for and against total.
Waikato host Canterbury on Friday night. A win will seal a semi-final spot while a loss will leave Waikato waiting on other results.
Additional reporting Stuff.co.nz.