First critical rank for Manawatū under the conference system

Peter Lampp is a sports columnist and former sports editor based in Manawatū.

OPINION: However the new NPC rugby format plays out, the fortunes of the Manawatū Turbos will depend on how well they are supported.

Last season, they lost their attacking deck when their scrum was blocked after losing their hardcore props.

It didn’t help that after playing just two games Feilding stalwart Tietie Tuimauga offered big bucks in a bid from Connacht to Ireland and it put the Turbos in an odious position where they would have been ogres if they had caught him.

A prop already in the books is former Crusader Harrison Allan joining the wider Highlanders group for the duration.

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If trainer Peter Russell were to design the shoring, then the rest of the Turbos have shown they can score the required tries and Brett Cameron can cut the posts in half.

A bank of young Manawatū props is in development, but in this revamped NPC of two lectures chosen by the rather arbitrary process of odds and events, Manawatū faces tough nuts such as Tasman, Canterbury, Taranaki and Auckland and will need immovable anchors in the bow. line.

Let’s also just say that Hawke’s Bay and Wellington were happy with the other conference they are in. The format has more merit than a conjured north-south thing, based on where you are on a map.

Some would say that under the old system, the 11th team of 14 could qualify for the playoffs.

When the Turbos won the championship final in 2014, the province went crazy and no one cared that they were eighth overall. We will miss it.

Manawatu coach Peter Russell.  © Copyright Image: William Booth /

William Booth/photosport

Manawatu coach Peter Russell. © Copyright Image: William Booth /

A visitor from Mars would ask why we have a competition where all the teams don’t play against each other.

This is because Super Rugby ends too late, players are hammered and Super Rugby starts again in the middle of summer. The NPC is a nuisance to smash and no one wants another NPC season to end on November 19th.

Luckily, it looks like Manawatū’s four unpublished crossover games are what you might call mid-range.

It seems NZ Rugby paid too much attention to the rebuke of Taranaki who asked for promotion last year because they won even though they didn’t have to play a night game in Inglewood and Covid prevented the three unions from Auckland to play.

Manawatū would surely have backed the status quo of the so-called Championship, especially after winning a semi-final on home soil last year, even though some claim the Championship smelled second-tier about it.

They reached this semi-final with four victories, which will not be enough to reach the new quarter-finals this year; they will need at least five games out of 10.

The beat is that the NPC can now be won by one of 14 teams and everyone is competing for the same trophy.

I wish I were wrong, but as one of the least endowed provinces, history shows that Manawatū hasn’t done this since 1980, even though they often scare Canterbury. The big guns, for example, can get away with resting players for the dreaded midweek.

It’s good to hear the rugby club will return to an April 2 start and away from the mid-March sunburn. This will allow clubs to reclaim their young talent from the Hurricanes 20 and development squads with the Hankins Shield final set for July 16, all Omicron permitting of course.

Russell feels he has the players to get the job done, but first he needs to salvage his core men from Super teams and overseas clubs in one piece. All good, he’ll have halfback Jamie Booth back and No. 8 Tyler Laubscher after rehab and stints with the Hurricanes.

Incidentally, NZ Rugby are set to return to promotion-relegation in the women’s competition with Manawatū back in the Premiership and Otago relegated.

Turbos’ Academy on the ball

The Turbos and their academy began taking on bigger provinces at their own game.

They quietly pounced on Canterbury and restrained lock Josh Taula and St Andrew’s College top five Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, All Black nephew Richie Mo’unga no less. He also played for Queensland Under-16s.

When the Hurricanes caught wind of those heists, they quickly whipped them into their Academy-cum-under-20s program, too.

The Hurricanes are very busy with Freyberg hooker Raymond Tuputupu and had the 18-year-old missile on their bench last weekend against the Blues, as was Kia lock Toa Ofa Tauatevalu.

In other pre-season scuttlegoals, everyone hopes that Feilding Old Boys-Oroua can muster enough players for a senior team. A 6-team club competition will not be enough.

We also hear that many of the women’s Varsity team have moved on to play for Old Boys-Marist under coach Slade Sturmey while former Turbo Andre Taylor would coach Kia Toa’s women’s team after his recent stints at Feilding and College Old Boys. Rugby is a moving party.

Michael P. Boser