Hemopo returns for Turbos' match with Tasman
The return of All Black Jackson Hemopo has provided the Turbos a timely boost ahead of their Wednesday night clash with Tasman at Central Energy Trust Arena.
The 2017 Turbos player of the year has not played a game in the Mitre 10 Cup season to date as he has been training with the All Blacks and battling a knee injury. But he has been given the all-clear to come off the bench for the Turbos against the Mako.
It will be Hemopo’s 21st game for Manawatu.
Coach Jeremy Cotter has opted to rotate some of his squad to ease the pain of a stretch of four games in 14 games.
The change up sees a first start in the No 12 jersey for James Tofa.
Tofa scored his first try for Manawatu from the wing against Northland last week.
But the hard-running product of Levin spent plenty of time in the club rugby season in the midfield.
Tofa came through school as a first five-eighth and is a handy goal-kicker.
His path to the Turbos is unique.
Originally from Horowhenua College, he spent his final years of high school at Rotorua Boys’ High School.
He said the time away from home was an important learning curve for him.
“My first day there was probably the hardest day of my life, just missing home. I am a very family orientated kind of guy. I am always having my uncle and my dad there giving me advice every day when I came home from school. But I think it is important having to learn to live life on your own and get the life skills.”
From there he ended up in Canterbury before spending a couple of months in Southland last year, injuries robbing him of a provincial debut.
His arrival at College Old Boys in Manawatu meant he was much closer to family.
Tofa said it meant a lot to him having his family able to watch his matches.
“It is a big motivation for me. It is one of the main reasons that I do what I do. When I see my parents, my family and my siblings on the sideline, it gives me the extra boost go that extra mile.”
Tofa is partnered in the midfield by Hamish Nothcott for Wednesday’s match.
Te Rangatira Waitokia takes Tofa’s spot on the wing.
The likes of Nick Crosswell, Liam Mitchell, Brice Henderson and Rob Thompson have all been rested after hefty workloads to start the season.
Liam Hallam-Eames, in his first game back from suspension, starts at lock alongside Tom Hughes, while a re-jigged loose forward trio sees Samuel Slade and Brad Tucker partner captain Antonio Kiri Kiri.
Otere Black will once again come off the bench as he is eased back from a knee injury.
Manawatu Turbos: 15 Junior Laloifi, 14 Te Rangatira Waitokia, 13 Hamish Northcott, 12 James Tofa, 11 Michael Tagicakibau, 10 Sam Malcolm, 9 Jamie Booth, 8 Brad Tucker, 7 Antonio Kiri Kiri, 6 Samuel Slade, 5 Liam Hallam-Eames, 4 Tom Hughes, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Tim Cadwallader, 1 Fraser Armstrong. Reserves: 16 Sam Stewart, 17 Faalelai Sione, 18 Sione Asi, 19 Jackson Hemopo, 20 Adrian Wyrill, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Otere Black, 23 Lifeimi Mafi