PIC Steelers look to retain Dan Bryant Memorial Trophy in Mitre 10 opener
The PIC Counties Manukau Steelers will be looking to retain the Dan Bryant Memorial Trophy when they take on neighbours Auckland in the opening round of the Mitre 10 Cup at Eden Park on Saturday.
The Steelers won their last encounter at Eden Park when Augustine Pulu scored a late try in the win, and they snuck home in another close battle at Pukekohe last year.
It is a new-look Steelers team that heads to Eden Park this year with the Trophy up for grabs, and the Bryant family on hand for the game to honour Dan Bryant who played the key part in the formation of Counties Rugby Union.
There are six newcomers in the squad for Saturday’s game, with a number of club players from the Counties Manukau competition in both teams, and with several experienced Steelers missing this year including Pulu, Pauliasi Manu, Stephen Donald, Baden Kerr and Tim Nanai-Williams all playing overseas, while co-captain Jimmy Tupou has a season-ending injury.
Steelers coach Darryl Suasua said his side are relatively inexperienced but excited to get their chance to play in the Mitre-10 Cup.
Newcomers in the starting line-up include Manurewa prop Howard Sililoto, the Manu Samoa representative; former Stags loose forward Mike McKee from Waiuku club; first-five Latiume Fosita, who was a key to the championship efforts of Ardmore-Marist club and halfback Te Aihe Toma, who played for Munster last year, in for injured Chiefs player Jonathan Taumateine.
“We have worked hard to get our club players up to speed and they have trained hard. And now we are gradually melding in our Super players gradually into the process,” said Steelers coach Darryl Suasua.
“We’ve been happy with the work that has gone in but of course we are under no illusions about how hard the challenge will be.
“While we are missing players of experience we have some young guys who will bring a lot of enthusiasm.”
The new captain this season is loose forward Sam Henwood, who impressed in his debut Super Rugby season for the Hurricanes.
The team is:
1.Howard Sililoto, 2. Joseph Royal, 3. Kalolo Tuiloma or Coree Te Whata-Colley, 4. Viliame Rarasea, 5. Matiaha Martin, 6. Mike McKee, 7. Fotu Lokotui, 8. Sam Henwood ©; 9. Te Aihe Toma, 10. Latiume Fosita, 11. Tevita Nabura, 12. Orbyn Leger, 13. Nigel Ah Wong, 14. Sione Molia, 15. Kalione Hala.
Reserves: 16. Gafatasi Su’a, 17. Mark Royal, 18. Coree Te Whata Colley or Abraham Falani, 19. Sikeli Nabou, 20. Matt Vaai, 21. Liam Daniela, 22. Cardiff Vaega, 23. Sam Furniss.
Not considered because of injury: Sean Bagshaw (hamstring), Luteru Laulala (knee), Toni Pulu (rib), Suetena Asomua (calf), Sione Fifita (calf), Daymon Leasuasu (shoulder), Dan Hyatt (hip), Jonathan Taumateine (season), Etene Nanai-Seturo (hamstring).