• Magpie Waa to captain Taradale this season

Magpie Waa to captain Taradale this season

Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby prop Namatahi Waa will have the captain's role when defending champions Taradale begin their Nash Cup campaign in the province's premier club competition today.

"It's the first time I've been named captain ... it's exciting times," the former Maori All Black and Blues Super player said this week.

Waa, 30, was given the captaincy when long-serving captain Andrew "Red" Gardner was ruled out of the season with a wrist injury.

"Apart from Red everyone else is back from last year. We've got a full squad of 40-odd from which our team for each week will be picked from. There's plenty of young fellahs who are keen to learn too," Waa said.

A Te Aute College old boy, Waa, recently spent a week down in Dunedin with the Highlanders as injury cover.

"It was a good experience. Obviously they are a different franchise to the Blues and it was good to learn new stuff which I can bring back to the Taradale club," Waa said.

While his side boasts plenty of depth Waa pointed out they won't be taking regular strugglers Tamatea lightly at Bill Mathewson Park today.

"Tamatea have got Mason [Kean] and Kianu [Kereru-Symes] back in the front row and Lincoln [McClutchie] at first five-eighth. They will give them a boost," Waa said.

Last year the Nash Cup competition wasn't played because of the Covid-19 pandemic and only the more prestigious Maddison Trophy round was played. Taradale co-coach Tim Combs said while his lads are keen to win the Maddison after being beaten in last year's final they will still be placing plenty of emphasis on their quest to retain the Nash.

"We definitely want a strong Nash Cup campaign. We've always aimed to be competitive with the best and we will strive to get better each Saturday," Combs stressed.

Other games today will see Maddison Trophy holders Hastings Rugby and Sports host Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports at Elwood Park, Central will host MAC at Waipukurau's Central Park, Clive will host Spillane Cup holders Napier Old Boys Marist at Farndon Park and Havelock North will take on Napier Technical at Anderson Park.

Hurricane Danny Toala will play at first five-eighth for Hastings today. His backline will miss the services of Magpies midfielder Neria Fomai who has a short-term contract with the Highlanders, Jayden Rihia who is in Australia and Antonio Mikaele-Tu'u who is out for the season with a ruptured Achilles.

Clive have secured the services of former key Havelock North players in halfback Trent Hape and winger Anzelo Tuitavuki.