Trio back but locks a worry
Story by: WAYNE MARTIN - Nelson Mail - Photo by: Chris Symes
The Tasman Rugby Union has confirmed three more signings with stalwart Robbie Malneek, Mitchell Scott and Riki Hoeata all on board for the 2012 ITM Cup campaign.
Foundation member Malneek will be playing his seventh straight season for the province, having already represented the province 63 times since debuting against Canada A in 2006. The 29-year-old utility back has signed for another year.
Tasman boss Andrew Flexman said that Malneek had been doing plenty of work with the Makos' fitness and conditioning staff in anticipation of his latest campaign.
"From a physical perspective he's actually getting better and better," said Flexman.
"He's still only 29, so he's keen to stick around for another year."
Winger Scott has signed a two-year deal with the union, having turned 21 only last Friday.
The former New Zealand under-20 player is currently with the Crusaders' wider training group and has already played 10 games for Tasman after debuting last year.
"Mitchell's obviously a boy from our region.
"He is also a kid who is doing pretty good things with the Crusaders' wider training group. It's pleasing that we can keep him here in our region because we see him as a kid for the future, with a pretty high degree of potential."
Hoeata returns on a one-year deal after a mixed 2011 season when injuries and suspensions clouded his availability. However, the 1.95m, 114kg lock-cum-loosie adds allround strength to the squad.
"We obviously had him in the region last year and the coach [Kieran Keane] is of the opinion that you know what you're going to get with Riki.
"He's a good tradesman-like player, so he can do a job for us."
The three signings now bring the number of contracted players up to 18 with provinces able to contract a minimum of 26.
That's the number Tasman are likely to settle on, although allowances will be made for All Blacks prop Ben Franks should he become available at any stage of the season.
However, Flexman said the union was still looking to boost its locking department as a critical part of attempting to increase the size and physicality of Tasman's pack. "We're still very much in the hunt there for the right type of player." he said.
"Lock is a challenging area and we're certainly working very hard to find the right person.
"Otherwise, I think things are taking shape reasonably well."
He said that the front row was beginning to take shape, with some potential, although as-yet unnamed, players under consideration.
"In the front row, we think things are going to come together pretty well.
"We've got a couple of guys we're hoping to target and Kieran's in discussion with a couple of guys.
"We think we've got some leads there."