The Counties Manukau PIC Steelers will look for inspiration from their front row in their important final round clash against defending champions Canterbury in Pukekohe on Saturday night.
The Steelers need two points at least from their final round match to ensure they remain in the Mitre-10 Cup Premiership for next year, and look for strong hometown support at Navigation Homes Stadium.
Prop Sean Bagshaw, the 31-year-old from the Onewhero club, will earn his 50th cap when he starts in Saturday’s clash after nine straight games for the Steelers this season.
Meanwhile fellow prop Nepo Laulala, the 13-test All Black, will earn his first cap for the Steelers off the bench in his long-anticipated return from injury. The former Wesley College player has been beset with injury after joining Steelers following 31 appearances for the Crusaders.
His long-awaited debut might still have a twist, in that his wife is already due to give birth to their first child.
Coach Darryl Suasua has made several changes to his starting line-up with Gafatasi Su’a getting his first start at hooker while Matt Vaai has been bracketed with Dan Hyatt at No8 and Sikeli Nabou will start at loose forward.
Team captain Sam Henwood has been unable to recover from his concussion to be available, despite training with the team this week.
In the backs Liam Daniela get a further start at halfback while Cardiff Vaega and Nigel Ah Wong form the midfield, and Toni Pulu plays his 51st and final game for the Steelers before moving to the Brumbies for next year’s Super Rugby competition.
There is free entry to the embankment for children under 13 (accompanied by a paying adult.
The Steelers team is:
1.Sean Bagshaw, 2. Gafatasi Su’a, 3. Coree Te Whata-Colley, 4. Daymon Leasuasu, 5. Matiaha Martin ©, 6. Sikeli Nabou, 7. Fotu Lokotui, 8. Daniel Hyatt or Matt Vaai; 9. Liam Daniela, 10. Luteru Laulala, 11. Tevita Nabura, 12. Cardiff Vaega, 13. Nigel Ah Wong, 14. Toni Pulu, 15. Etene Nanai-Seturo.
Reserves: 16. Joseph Royal, 17. Howard Sililoto, 18. Nepo Laulala, 19. Viliame Rarasea, 20. Matthew Vaai or Viliami Taulani, 21. Te Aihe Toma 22. Orbyn Leger, 23. Sione Molia.