UPDATED: The Upper Hutt Rams will go into this coming weekend’s National Club Sevens Nationals in Auckland missing several familiar players from recent sevens campaigns and previous club nationals.
Key among them are the Schrijvers brothers, Hayden and Daniel, with Hayden sidelined for several months with an ACL injury and Dan attending a New Zealand Sevens Development camp in Mt Maunganui this weekend which clashes with this tournament.
Other players missing from recent Upper Hutt Rams Sevens campaigns include former All Blacks Sevens player Max Pearson (broken leg late last season), dynamic 15s openside flanker Mitchell Markov (work commitments), Tafa Tafa (just married and honeymooning) and experienced Nua Fono-Hunt (newly minted father, family commitments).
Nevertheless, Upper Hutt Rams Head Coach Nathan Williams is confident of a strong showing at this year’s tournament, hosted by last year’s winners Eden in Auckland.
“We have a completely new squad this year with our captain Sam Wasley the only player with club nationals experience, said Williams on the eve of the team’s departure.
2017 Samoa Sevens representative and Wellington Lions flanker Greg Foe is a welcome addition to the squad, himself out of action for most of last year ‘s representative season with a broken arm.
“I have pulled in Greg Foe as our import player. It’s fantastic that Poneke have released a player of his calibre to help us represent Wellington at this tournament. We are pretty stoked to have him.”
The rules of the tournament allow for each team to field one invitational loan player from another club and one school-aged player.
“Jack Wright and Josh Brown are the other two power forwards and I believe they both have big futures in the game. We have also got Owen Karati a former Manawatu sevens player and current Wellington men’s squad member who joined us in the middle of 2017.”
Other experienced players in the Rams squad include Premier first five-eighth Tynan Barrett and Brandyn Laursen who has Wellington Men’s 7s experience and transferred from Hutt Old Boys Marist to the Upper Hutt Rams sevens at the end of 2017. Laursen was a key player for the Rams in the Hawke’s Bay Sevens tournament played late last year in which they were runners-up without any of their rep players.
Hayden Schrijvers and captain Sam’s brother, Richard Wasley, are also helping to coach the team.†
“We have some Colts boys filling out our 12 but they all have experience playing men’s 7s in our American Ambassador’s Wellington club series win,” Williams explained. “I believe we have an opportunity to do well, the boys have been working extremely hard over the last month. We are hoping to do our club, our supporters, our sponsors and Wellington club sevens proud!”
The Rams are Wellington’s sole representative in this year’s National Club Sevens tournament, which has grown in scope and kudos in recent years.
The 16 teams present will be playing for the Middlesex County Wavell Wakefield Cup.
Wainuiomata were champions in 2015 when the tournament was held at Rangataua in the Bay of Plenty, losing the crown to Waikato’s Melville when it was played at William Jones Park the following February.
The Rams have been consistent performers in recent years without taking home the title, finishing in the top four in each of the past four editions, including losing the final in Melville in 2016. Prior to that they finished fifth and won the Plate when it was last held in the South Island in 2013.
Last year the Rams had the Auckland, Counties and Northland club champions in their pool. They beat Waikato champions Melville 17-12 in their quarter-final but lost to North Harbour champions Massey 7-24 in their semi-final.
This year the Rams are grouped in Pool D on day one on Saturday with Rangataua (Bay of Plenty), Northcote (North Harbour) and home province champions University (Auckland).
1. Sam Wasley ©
2. Jack Wright
3. Greg Foe
4. Konelio Feaunati
5. Tynan Barrett
6. Brandyn Laursen
7. Owen Karati
8. Josh Brown
10. Keegan Radonvich
11. Luke Boon
12. Carter Finchman
Pools, draw and overall tournament preview to come tomorrow