The Counties Manukau PIC Steelers will be looking to finish strongly as they chase their first win in the Mitre-10 Cup when they travel to play Hawkes Bay on Sunday.
The Steelers have had three bonus-point losses to start the competition, with the side hot on attack at the end of each of their three games, but unable to finish it off and turn those narrow losses into wins.
On Sunday lock Matiaha Martin takes over the captaincy with the outstanding Sam Henwood sidelined with concussion after a head-knock that led by the winning try for visitors Taranaki in Wednesday’s match in Pukekohe.
His place has been taken by debutant Caleb Fa’alili, the former Samoan Under-20 representative, who had the second highest tackle count in last year’s Under-20 World Cup.
The Steelers welcome Waiuku loose forward Dan Hyatt to the starting line-up at No 8 after a hip injury.
The experienced Cardiff Vaega and talented Sam Furniss both come off the bench for their first starts for the season at midfield with the remainder of the backline unchanged, where the coaches will want to ensure more attacking opportunities for outstanding wingers Tevita Nabura and Toni Pulu, who both scored stunning solo efforts against Taranaki.
Coach Darryl Suasua said the Steelers had to step up again in a double-header week in the competition.
“There were lots of good things we did against Taranaki with our scrum really strong and our scramble defence excellent.
“We need to be more accurate at attacking lineout and in the set-piece defence. I can’t fault their hard work and their heart. This week we will miss our captain, but I know all the team want to step up to do that little bit more and get over the line for him.”
The team is:
1.Sean Bagshaw, 2. Joseph Royal, 3. Kalolo Tuiloma, 4. Viliame Rarasea, 5. Matiaha Martin ©, 6. Matt Vaai, 7. Caleb Fa’alili, 8. Dan Hyatt; 9. Te Aihe Toma, 10. Latiume Fosita, 11. Tevita Nabura, 12. Cardiff Vaega, 13. Sam Furniss, 14. Toni Pulu, 15. Luteru Laulala
Reserves: 16. Gafatasi Su’a, 17. Mark Royal, 18. Coree Te Whata Colley, 19. Michael McKee, 20. Sikeli Nabou, 21. Liam Daniela 22. Orbyn Leger 23. Savelio Ropati.
Not considered because of injury: Suetena Asomua (calf), Sione Fifita (calf), Jonathan Taumateine (season - hamstring), Etene Nanai-Seturo (hamstring), Fotu Lokotui (leg), Sam Henwood (concussion), Howard Sililoto (shoulder).