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Bay of Plenty unveil star-studded, recruitment-heavy squad for NPC

By Tom Vinicombe
Naitoa Ah Kuoi. (Photo by Jeremy Ward/Photosport)

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Former Bay of Plenty coach Clayton McMillan made it clear a few years ago that the best way to ensure continued success at provincial level was to boast a large number of full-time professional players. The latest squad, now coached by Darryl Gibson, boasts exactly that.

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In total, the Steamers will be able to call upon 19 players, who featured throughout Super Rugby this year – including one from the Super Rugby AU title-winning Reds.

A number of the province’s new signings were telegraphed well in advance, such as the recruitment of Highlanders lock Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Crusaders loose forward Whetukamokamo Douglas and Chiefs wing Sean Wainui, but there were still some surprises in the squad unveiled today.

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Chief amongst those is the arrival of Reds flanker Angus Scott-Young, as well as bringing Naitoa Ah Kuoi north from Wellington and former New Zealand Under 20s midfielder Inga Finau in from Canterbury.

Up front, Kurt Eklund, Nathan Vella and former All Black Nathan Harris will offer plenty in the hooking role but the propping stocks are hardly worth shaking a stick at either, with the likes of Aidan Ross, Tevita Mafileo and Jeff Thwaites supported by Fiji representative Haereiti Hetet.

Selby-Rickit and Ah Kuoi could form a dynamic partnership in the second row while the Steamers have access to experienced operators such as Douglas, Scott-Young, Mitch Karpik and potentially Sam Cane in the loose forwards. Chiefs Under 20 flanker Veveni Lasaqa will train with the squad in an apprentice role and looks to have a big future in the game.

Luke Campbell and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi will again battle it out for the starting halfback spot and will partner with Kaleb Trask or Otere Black – who will miss the opening rounds after undergoing surgery in early July.

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Elsewhere in the backs, the likes of Finau, Wainui, Emoni Narawa, Chase Tiatia and Joe Webber provide plenty of experience and X-factor.

The one major absence from 2020 is Tongan flanker Zane Kapeli, who ruptured his patellar tendon against Samoa in their Rugby World Cup qualifiers.

Bay of Plenty finished third in last year’s Mitre 10 Cup, going down 19-10 to Tasman in their semi-final. Given their excellent recruitment for the upcoming season, the Steamers will be gunning for a first premiership title since 1976, the year of the NPC’s first inception.

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Bay of Plenty unveil star-studded, recruitment-heavy squad for NPC

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