Buller no easy-beats this time South Canterbury coach says
South Canterbury rugby coach Nigel Walsh believes Buller will be ‘‘a different beast’’ in Westport today.
He said a number of factors have changed since the Green and Blacks notched a record 78-10 score against Buller last Saturday in Timaru.
While Walsh still expects to win comfortably against the country’s smallest union, he said Buller would be hurting.
‘‘This time we have to travel. Buller have a gala day with everyone from under nines up playing so their whole community will be behind them.’’
Walsh said it was likely Buller would also add some depth to their side with players returning to their lineup who couldn’t travel last weekend.
‘‘You always need to respect your opposition.’’
Walsh has again been forced to make a number of changes with several players carrying injuries.
Midfield Zac Saunders is out with an ankle injury giving handy utility Jared Trevathan a start at second-five.
James Wilson-Bishop comes on to the left wing for Kalavini Leatigaga, who hasn’t been able to train.
Walsh has also opted to start Willie Wright at halfback for the first time this season with the inform Theo Davidson on the bench.
‘‘Theo has done nothing wrong at all but Willie deserves a start.’’
A training collision on Thursday night has forced captain Nick Strachan to withdraw so Pita Halaifonua gets a start.
Prop Vaka Taelega’s promising season is over with a shoulder injury so centurion Matt Fetu comes on to the bench along with Taufa Halaufia.
The inclusion of hookers Tim Caird and Cam Hucker in the substitutes gives Walsh an abundance of front row choice.
The team is, however, light on back reserves with Davidson the only one as Walsh goes with a sixone split in favour of the forwards.
Walsh, who has a number of forwards who have appeared in club backlines this season, isn’t worried.
‘‘It’s not ideal and we could have pushed Zac to play but I’m confident we have the cover if needed.’’
Both ball-carrying loose forwards, Halaifonua and Siu Kakala, would not be out of place in the midfield and Caird has appeared on the wing for Waimate.
The backline this season has already lost fullback Marco Mason who has returned early to South Africa to prepare for his wedding while vice captain Miles Medlicott suffered a recurring neck injury.
Wing Sireli Buliruarua has an ankle injury while fellow Fijian Petero Tuwai’s absence from practice means he was not considered.
Buller is South Canterbury’s penultimate game for the rejigged Covid-19 curtailed season.
The final game in Timaru will be against North Otago with the winner claiming the title new Hanan Shield Challenge Series title.