East Coast rugby coaches Troy Para and Wayne Ensor have named seven new caps in their starting 15 to play King Country in Te Kuiti on Saturday.
Hakarangi Tichborne (loan prop), Wyntah Riki (Uawa, hooker), Adaam Ross (loan lock), Jack Richardson (Ruatoria City, openside), Ngarangi Haerewa (TVC, first five-eighth), Teina Potae (Tokararangi, second-five) and Morris Siliko (loan fullback) are in the Sky Blues run-on side.
Te Teira Maxwell (Ruatoria City, No.8), Mangu Kemp (Uawa, utility back) and CJ Fox (Ruatoria City, halfback) are in the reserves and will make Coast Heartland debuts.
“BJ Sidney and TK Moeke are unavailable for this match and they are big losses — both are good backs,” Para said.
“But we can only focus on the players we have selected.”
Several players missed last week’s game against Eastern Bay of Plenty because they were at a tangi.
Para and Ensor will have all of those players — including skipper and No.8 Hone Haerewa — available on Saturday.
“It was a good win but Eastern Bay came over with a depleted team, so we have to keep that in mind,” Para said.
“King Country will be a huge step up. From what I’ve heard, they have a big pack and some big backs.
“They’ll be hard to crack at home but we’re going there ready to give it our best shot.
“We’ve got a light, mobile pack who will need to front up defensively and make their first-up tackles.
“If we do that and keep it up for 80 minutes, we’re in with a shout of winning.”
Former Meads Cup winners Sam Parkes (halfback) and Verdon Bartlett (winger/centre) are the seasoned campaigners in a backline that includes left wing Jayden Milner and fullback Siliko.
Both have pace to burn and, given the opportunity to run, will cause defences problems.
NPEC (1-15): Hakarangi Tichborne, Wyntah Riki, Perrin Manuel, Scott Lasenby, Adaam Ross, Rikki Kernohan, Jack Richards, Hone Haerewa, Sam Parkes, Ngarangi Haerewa, Jayden Milner, Teina Potae, Verdon Bartlett, Benny Haerewa, Morris Siliko.
Reserves: Pera Bishop, Tim Barbarich, Trent Proffit, Te Teira Maxwell, CJ Fox, Mangu Kemp, Fabyan Kahaki.