The addition of home-grown international props Sekope Kepu and Sila Puafisi will be a huge boost to the Counties Manukau PIC Steelers’ chances in the upcoming Bunnings Warehouse National Provincial Championship.
All Blacks Nepo Laulala, Dalton Papali’i and Hoskins Sotutu have all been named in the All Blacks Rugby Championship squad and will see limited game time but there is added depth in the PIC Steelers squad this season.
Wallabies centurion Kepu grew up in the region and played for Wesley College and the PIC Steelers briefly before heading over the Tasman where he established himself as one of the best props in the world.
He returns to his South Auckland home on a two-year deal and is set to make a big impact.
Tongan international Puafisi is also a Counties Manukau junior before embarking on a professional career that took him to Tasman, France and the United Kingdom.
Also returning in the front row is Samoan international Kalolo Tuiloma, who demonstrated terrific club form for Bombay and will boost prop stocks that include Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Mark Royal and Suetena Asomua.
Veteran hooker Joe Royal is back in Counties Manukau after a superb club season with Patumahoe. He joins Zuriel Togiatama, who impressed in the starting role last season, and Karaka youngster Penisoni Fineanganofo.
Ray Tatafu (Southland) makes the move north this season to join a locking brigade that includes talented youngster Alex McRobbie, grandson of Steelers centurion Ean McRobbie, veterans Matiaha Martin and Viliame Rarasea as well as the hard-hitting Steven Leavasa, fresh off being nominated as the biggest hitter in club rugby in the region.
International loose forwards Sam Slade (Samoa), Alamanda Motuga (Samoa) and Viliami Taulauni (Tonga) all return after impressive campaigns last season. They are joined by Tongan veteran Nili Latu as well as hard-working Bombay open side Adam Brash.
Super Rugby halfbacks Jonathan Taumateine and Cameron Roigard will combine with the experienced Liam Daniela in the number nine jumper.
Counties Manukau youngster Jared Page returns to the region after a couple of years with North Harbour. He joins Patumahoe’s Riley Hohepa and 2020 skipper Orbyn Leger as options at first-five for coach Tai Lavea.
Midfield options include Amanaki Savieti, Blues centre Tanielu Tele’a, former Chief and Fijian international Asaeli Tikoirotuma as well as Leger.
The exciting Peniasi Malimali will be one to watch on the wing after a sensational club season while All Blacks Sevens star Etene Nanai-Seturo will link up with the squad upon returning from the Tokyo Olympics. Also included amongst the backs named are veteran Luteru Laulala and Pukekohe’s sharp-shooter Jarrod Halliday.
PIC Steelers head coach Tai Lavea said the squad had a good mix of experience which was balanced by the inclusion of some exciting younger players who had been rewarded on the back of superb performances at club level.
“Following last season, we identified the need for some more older heads in our squad and we are rapt with the quality of experience we have been able to bring in,” Lavea said.
“At the same time, it’s also been fantastic to reward guys for the form they showed during the club season with the likes of Liam Daniela, Riley Hohepa, Adam Brash, Peniasi Malimali and Steven Leavasa all impressing during the McNamara Cup this year.
“We’ve got a very motivated group and we can’t wait to represent this proud rugby province when the NPC kicks off next week.”
Counties Manukau PIC Steelers 2021 squad
Hookers: Joe Royal (Patumahoe), Zuriel Togiatama (Ardmore Marist), Penisoni Fineanganofo (Karaka).
Props: Ezekiel Lindenmuth (Ardmore Marist), Kalolo Tuiloma (Bombay), Mark Royal (Ardmore Marist), Nepo Laulala (Ardmore Marist), Sekope Kepu (Karaka), Sila Puafisi (Karaka), Suetena Asomua (Waiuku).
Locks: Alex McRobbie (Bombay), Matiaha Martin (Bombay), Ray Tatafu (Papakura), Viliame Rarasea (Ardmore Marist).
Loose forwards: Adam Brash (Bombay), Alamanda Motuga (Ardmore Marist), Dalton Papali’i (Patumahoe), Hoskins Sotutu (Patumahoe), Nili Latu (Papakura), Sam Slade (Pukekohe), Viliami Taulani (Manurewa), Steven Leavasa (Manurewa).
Inside Backs: Cameron Roigard (Onewhero), Jonathan Taumateine (Waiuku), Liam Daniela (Patumahoe), Orbyn Leger (Karaka), Riley Hohepa (Patumahoe).
Midfield Backs: Amanaki Savieti (Karaka), Tanielu Tele’a (Manurewa), Asaeli Tikoirotuma (Manurewa).
Outside Backs: Peniasi Malimali (Karaka), Etene Nanai-Seturo (Karaka), Jarrod Halliday (Pukekohe), Luteru Laulala, Jared Page (Pukekohe).
website by 72DPI