Pirates strong up front
They will be forceful up front.
First-year captain Will Bolingford, Willie Waitoa and Eru Wharerau have important roles to play in Kevin Hollis Glass Pirates' premier club rugby fortunes this season, although head coach Waitoa and his fellow forwards coach Wharerau would be happy if they didn't have to take the field themselves.
“After nine weeks in lockdown, for us it's now about nailing the fundamentals — taking care of our own ball at set-piece, pressuring the opposition on their set-piece,” Waitoa said.
His crew are chomping at the bit to train. Big prop Harmony Hauraki-Downes hasn't missed one of the Buccaneers' 16 team runs this season.
Blindside flanker Bolingford has been with the club since 2010.
“It's about putting the pieces together and transferring that on to the field, playing good rugby,” he said.
“We have a strong, experienced pack to lay the platform; our backs have flair and pace. We're going to get stuck in.”
Like every other premier side in Poverty Bay, Pirates have not just committed players but also hard workers behind the scenes: backs coaches Keith Henderson and Junior Akurangi, and managers Mark Adams, former chairman Pat Makiri and Tuki and Sonya Sweeney.
Hooker Wyntah Riki, a member of 2018 and '19 East Coast club champions Uawa, has joined Pirates. He and stalwarts Robert Broughton, Anthony Kiwara, Hauraki-Downes and Jesse Sweeney give the tight five broad backs and shunt at scrum-time.
Fetcher Koro Miringaorangi is a workhorse, CJ Fox-Campbell is lively at halfback and, outside him, both Jacob Leaf and Abbey Wawatai can break the line and pass well in the tackle.
Pirates played good hard rugby in the pre-season tournament at Patutahi and showed more of the same — with three tries — against Hawke's Bay side Maori Agricultural College the following weekend. Waitoa's men are also looking to play Tokomaru Bay United at their ground on June 13.
“I've been with Pirates since 2010,” said Waitoa, who locked with younger brother Riki in Pirates' first grand final appearance after 58 years in 2010, and led them to victory in 2012 and 2014.
“Guys like Pat (Makiri), Kevin Hollis, Rua Tipoki, Ngarimu Simpkins, Henry Maxwell, they rolled their sleeves up. I was grateful to be here, and we all worked a little bit of magic.
“Henry was honest. I'd heard that word ‘integrity' used before, but he taught me what it meant to have integrity. He was the first coach I'd had who told me if I'd had a so-so game. And he told me that communication is a two-way street . . . it has to be, so that we all grow.”