The sur­prise pack­age of 2014, Tas­man look well equipped to be con­fi­dent they can per­form at the higher level now they have been pro­moted.

Hav­ing earned pro­mo­tion to the Pre­mier­ship, Tas­man, says BRENT ED­WARDS, look well equipped to stay there.

NZ Rugby World - - Contents - Coaches: Kieran Keane ( head) an d Leon Mac­Don­ald ( as­sis­tant )

Vi­sion State­ment We’ve cre­ated our own mo­men­tum and we want to keep that go­ing. The past few years have been great for rugby in the re­gion. We don’t see play­ing in the Pre­mier­ship as a big­gie. Our aim is to ce­ment our place as a cred­i­ble op­tion in New Zealand rugby. Head coach Kieran Keane

The Big Pic­ture

It’s all sys­tems go as Tas­man, once an out­post of New Zealand rugby, make their de­but in the Pre­mier­ship. It has been a re­mark­able rise for Tas­man, an amal­ga­ma­tion of Nel­son Bays and Marl­bor­ough, which not so long ago was the New Zealand rugby equiv­a­lent of Vic­to­ria in Aus­tralia.

Tas­man were last in the Cham­pi­onship in 2011, beaten semi­fi­nal­ists in 2012 and last year beat Hawke’s Bay 26- 25 in the fi­nal to gain pro­mo­tion. They won 10 of 12 games, scored 408 points to 239 and 44 tries to 24. Sea­son sen­sa­tion Marty Banks scored 170 points and Liam Squire scored seven tries.

They won three of four matches against Pre­mier­ship teams - 40- 20 over Coun­ties- Manukau, 64- 28 against Waikato and 27- 20 over Taranaki. And they beat ev­ery team ( Waikato, Otago, Hawke’s Bay and Coun­ties) which held the shield last year. They scored more than 40 points in five of their matches.

Coach Kieran Keane has his hands on the tiller for the fifth con­sec­u­tive sea­son and is again as­sisted by for­mer All Black Leon Mac­Don­ald while Mar­tyn Ver­coe takes over from the pop­u­lar and longserv­ing Jenelle Strick­land as team man­ager. Keane is es­pe­cially pleased to have re­tained al­most all his key play­ers from last year, which in­clude 10 who played in this sea­son’s Su­per 15.

Lock Joe Wheeler and flanker and cap­tain Shane Christie had fine sea­sons for the High­landers, Tom Mar­shall, James Lowe, Squire and Te­vita Koloa­matangi played for the Chiefs, Tim Perry and Kieran Fono­tia for the Cru­saders while Banks and Billy Guy­ton were part of the Hur­ri­canes.

And there is vast ex­pe­ri­ence among other re­turn­ing play­ers Rob­bie Mal­neek, Mitchell Scott, Te­vita Cavu­bati, Mike Wells, Alex Ain­ley and Ver­non Fred­er­icks.

Hooker Quentin Mac­Don­ald has been over­seas af­ter miss­ing a Su­per 15 con­tract but has re­turned while wing Bryce Heem has been with the New Zealand sev­ens squad. There is con­ti­nu­ity spread through the squad. Mal­neek is Tas­man’s most­capped player ( 83 games) while Wheeler has logged 58, Mac­Don­ald 56, Ain­ley 52 and Christie 42.

“We have had our downs as well as ups since the amal­ga­ma­tion but we’ve pro­gressed each sea­son and I’m re­ally pleased with the squad we’ve been able to put to­gether for this sea­son,” Keane said.

Ris­ing St ar

No 8 or blind­side flanker Peter Samu. A nat­u­ral ath­lete with the raw ma­te­rial to de­velop into a qual­ity loose for­ward. Has a strong men­tal at­ti­tude and should learn much from the likes of Squire, Christie and Koloa­matangi. Born in Mel­bourne and was a mem­ber of the Waratahs wider train­ing squad while based in Sydney. “He’s im­prov­ing ev­ery day,” says Keane.

Old Dog

Prop Ross Gelden­huys played Su­per rugby as a tight­head prop for South African fran­chises the Lions and Kings. Has set­tled in well to the Tas­man en­vi­ron­ment and should add steel to the fron­trow.

New Ar­rivals

Samu, Gelden­huys and for­mer Hawke’s Bay hooker Jesse Mac­don­ald are the newly- con­tracted play­ers from last year but the fea­ture of the squad is that 19 re­turn from last sea­son’s suc­cess­ful cam­paign. Half­back Mark Swanepoel has re­turned to Aus­tralia and other ab­sen­tees from last year are tight­head prop and Ton­gan in­ter­na­tional Sila Puafisi, who has linked up with English club Glouces­ter, for­mer Samoan No 8 Ge­orge Stow­ers, English mid­fielder Andy Sy­mons, who has re­turned to the Worces­ter club while flanker Gary Red­mond is play­ing in Ash­bur­ton.

HIGH IM­PACT Liam Squire will have learned plenty af­ter his sea­son with the Chiefs.

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