A familiar face will stand in Tasman’s way as they attempt to make a six-from-six start to the 2019 Mitre 10 Cup rugby season in Nelson on Sunday.
Former Mako coach Kieran Keane, a life member of the union who guided Tasman’s fortunes from 2009-16, will bring his North Harbour team to Trafalgar Park, intent on ending the home side’s flying start to the season.
Harbour have battled for consistency in 2019, their season epitomised by their last effort, where they had to come from a 17-point deficit against Waikato at home to get the job done.
However, the current Mako co-head coach Andrew Goodman has no doubt his former mentor will have the Harbour side primed and ready to put on a strong showing on Sunday.
“It will be good to catch up with KK, he’s done a lot for our union.
“We know he is an awesome coach and he’ll have some great tricks up his sleeve so we will have to be right on our game again.”
Goodman is also pleased to be playing at home again after a couple of away fixtures.
“Three of our next four games are at Trafalgar Park so we are looking forward to some more strong home support, as we got in Blenheim. We are hoping for the same in our Nelson games.”
Although Tasman have historically struggled to get the better of Harbour sides, this season’s formbook suggests the home side will start as overwhelming favourites, especially given their effort against Counties Manukau on Friday.
Although the Mako scored some well-executed tries on their way to 36 points, it was the other side of the scoreline that gave Goodman the most pleasure.
For the first time in the history of matches between the two sides the Steelers were held scoreless. The home side’s inability to score a single point came down to several factors, most of them stemming directly from the pressure created by their opposition.
“The zero on the scoreboard was the most pleasing aspect of the night,” suggested Goodman. “It’s always a great sight, especially for [defense coach] Shane [Christie] who has been doing some awesome work leading our defence this year. It was a great reward for the whole team.”
Goodman certainly wasn’t expecting such a decisive scoreline, especially in testing conditions.
“We have had some tussles up here in the past so we are happy to grab five points.
“We talked about the fact we had to be right on for these boys – they’ve got dangerous players right across the park … we just had to stay on the whole time and I think the whole side did well there.”
He was particularly impressed with a couple of players, notably lofty lock Pari Pari Parkinson and former Counties-Manukau lad Jordan Taufua who brought “a lot of energy and excitement as he always does and got us a lot of go-forward early on”.
“I also thought that in the early stages our nine and 10, Hunty and Fin, really controlled play well with their kicking game, giving us a good start.
“There were some good individual performances, and the forwards laid a great platform for us.
“To go to our pack at the moment and know we can reset our game with some lineout drives and exploit that kicking space is working well for us at the moment.”
Another factor that is quickly becoming apparent about this Mako side is their ability to perform in all conditions. During their five matches thus far they have faced a mix of wet and dry conditions and been able to produce the goods each time.
“We talked a lot before the season about being able to adapt our game to the conditions and the match situation. We’ve definitely had some improvements in that area but there’s a little bit of growth still to be had,” warned Goodman.
Kick off at Trafalgar Park on Sunday is 4.35pm.