The Tasman Makos coaches have named a 33-strong high performance squad to prepare for a pre-season rugby match against Counties Manukau.
On June 28, the Tasman side will begin their build-up to the 2017 Mitre 10 Cup season against a Steelers combination in Auckland. With so many of the 2017 Makos squad involved in Super Rugby, the hunt is on for players to fill the majority of the jerseys in the Counties game and during their second hit-out, against Manawatu in Palmerston North on August 2.
These games offer the chance for players on the fringe of Makos selection to stake their claim for a contract. Several of the participants in the pre-season campaign last year went on to earn full 2016 Super Rugby contracts, including Crusaders Andrew Makalio and Quinten Strange, Tom Hill, Blair Prinsep, Trael Joass, Shannon Frizzel and Tim O'Malley.
The Tasman side will be under the control of new Makos assistant coach Leo Crowley who is acting head coach until Leon MacDonald returns from Crusaders duties.
Tasman Rugby Union boss Tony Lewis said; "this year there is a lot for the players to play for. There are between 5-8 contracts available in 2017.
"The next six weeks will be very important for players as we look at 2018 where there is an anticipated changing of the guard. This requires careful management and is something the rugby committee have been planning for over the last two years."
The squad features New Zealand sevens representatives Trael Joass, Andrew Knewstubb and Tone Ng Shiu, along with former Buller loose forward Daniel Hytongue.
The Makos final pre-season match is against Wellington, in Seddon, on August 10, when most of the Super Rugby contingent are expected to be available.
Tasman High Performance squad
Forwards: Brendan Asomua-Goodman (Nelson), Tom Hill (Stoke), Jack Best (Moutere), Eden Beech (Kahurangi), Drew Petelo (Wanderers), Isaac Salmon (Nelson), Paripari Parkinson (Stoke), Mike Curry (Moutere), Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta (Stoke), Shannon Frizell (Marist), Jeff Lepa (Waimea Old Boys), Ethan Blackadder (Nelson), Ofa Folau (Waitohi), Braden Stewart (Central), Tone Ng Shiu (Wanderers), Dan Hytongue (Waimea Old Boys), Isaiah Miller (Nelson).
Backs: Ben Finau (Moutere), Jack Grooby (Waimea Old Boys), Tim O'Malley (Waitohi), Andrew Knewstubb (Kahurangi), Willie Havili (Nelson), James Hawkey (Marist), Nick Foxley (Nelson), Trael Joass (Wanderers), Rupena Parkinson (Stoke), Fletcher Matthews (Wanderers), Vili Lolohea (Harlequins), Johnny Ika (Moutere), Sam Chamberlain (Stoke), Glen Ballam (Renwick), Timoci Tavatavanawai (Central), Tomas Aoake (Stoke).