Five players to watch: Counties Manukau
Friday, August 3, 2018 allblacks.com Getty Images
While Counties have plenty of threats out wide, they also boast one of the most destructive ball-running props in the country in the form of Kalolo Tuiloma. Tuiloma burst on the scene in 2016 with a hat-trick inside 20 minutes against Waikato before heading to France to ply his trade. He returned to New Zealand this year and made a number of effective cameos for the Highlanders in Super Rugby. The 135kg powerhouse will relish a regular starting spot in Steelers colours and offers plenty of stability at scrum time along with his trademark ball running.
Among a young and inexperienced team, 33-year-old hooker Joe Royal will be a crucial component. Having previously played for Bay of Plenty, North Harbour and the Maori All Blacks, Royal brings a wealth of experience to the Steelers line up. The 113kg hooker will provide set piece stability and act as a mentor for some of the younger players in the squad. Royal has been a consistent performer on the national scene for a number of years and would love nothing more than to taste Premiership success.
There will be plenty of eyes on 18-year-old flyer Etene Nanai-Seturo throughout the Mitre 10 Cup campaign. Nanai-Seturo’s talented was spotted at an early age by the Warriors NRL club before committing to rugby union earlier this year. Nanai-Seturo impressed for the All Blacks Sevens on the Sevens World Series circuit this year and will be eager to continue his development in the Mitre 10 Cup. An exciting outside back, Nanai-Seturo will have plenty of flair and experience around him in the form of Super Rugby stars Orbyn Leger and Toni Pulu.
The stocks of powerful loose forward Sam Henwood have risen steadily this year. After making his NPC debut for Auckland all the way back in 2011, Henwood tasted the most success of his career for the Hurricanes during their 2018 campaign. After Ardie Savea was injured, Henwood started three games for the Hurricanes and earned plenty of plaudits for his solid all-round play. Having taken his game to the next level at Super Rugby, Henwood will now be ready to impose himself as a genuine star at Mitre 10 Cup level.
Although unlikely to play much this season due to All Blacks commitments, the presence of Kieran Read in the Steelers squad is a huge boost for the province. After a decade playing for Canterbury, Read has returned home to the region where he first laced up rugby boots. The two-time Rugby World Cup winner proudly pulled on Counties colours in the pre-season and will continue to provide inspiration to a side desperate to be a genuine title contender in the Premiership.
Looking great in @CountiesRugby colours Kieran!
?? = Kieran Read pic.twitter.com/fS9nWmXfrV— Mitre 10 Cup (@Mitre10Cup) June 27, 2018
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