CAMPBELL JOHNSTONE: He will strengthen the Makos squad for the upcoming ITM Cup season.
Former Crusaders and All Blacks prop Campbell Johnstone is a significant inclusion in the Tasman Makos ITM Cup rugby squad announced today by selector/coaches Kieran Keane and Leon MacDonald.
Johnstone played three tests for the All Blacks in 2005, including two against the British Lions and made his Canterbury debut against Marlborough in 2002.
Playing for Biarritz in France, the 32-year-old tight-head prop has signed a one-year deal with the Tasman Makos and joins three other internationals in the squad, Manu Samoan World Cup team-mates, halfback Jeremy Sua from the Wakatu Marist Club in Nelson and lock Filipo Levi from the Marist Club in Auckland and Fiji forward Tevita Cavubati. Levi comes back for his second Makos campaign having made his debut last year. The fourth test player is Fijian lock Tevita Cavubati.
Auckland Blues prop Angus Ta'avao was the original target for signing, but when he was required to fill a gap in the Auckland squad Johnstone was a more than adequate other option.
Six Marlborough-based club players have made the cut.
Waitohi's New Zealand sevens centre Bryce Heem and his club-mate, loose-forward Vernon Fredericks, Central hooker Quentin MacDonald, Harlequins team-mates, first-five Hayden Cripps, lock Joe Wheeler and prop Tim Perry. Also on standby in the backup training group are Harlequins utility back George Millar and Waitohi first-five Daniel Hawkins.
Wakatu Marist loose-forward Liam Squire has been named, but is unlikely to play due to serious ankle and leg injuries sustained in the Tasman Trophy final.
Tasman Rugby Union chief Andrew Flexman said they have the option of bringing in a replacement, which could be a loan option from outside the area.
Other new faces in the squad are outside back Tenina Sauileoge from the Papatoetoe Club in Auckland and centre James Lowe from Waimea Old Boys. Wakatu Marist flanker Gary Redmond and Waimea Old Boys forward Tevita Cavubati are other new caps in the team to be captained by Andrew Goodman.
New Zealand under-20 prop Reuben Northover will be part of the back-up contingent.
Makos head coach Keane is pleased with his squad, particularly Johnstone's inclusion.
"I've been really pleased with the way everything has come together. Unfortunate to lose Liam Squire to injury. He doesn't look good for the season and Tom Marshall has a serious shoulder injury and we are waiting to see how serious that is.
"There's a nice blend of experience and young fellows. Very fortunate to get Johnstone and Levi, two people who have been around the traps. A bit more balance this year and we've got Jeremy Sua, another international player."
Keane said several players went very closer to selection, including Hawkins, but with the high injury attrition rate these days it's highly likely the backup players will be required at some stage.
The Tasman B and Tasman under-20 teams are due to be named after the Marlborough and Nelson Bays club finals at the end of this month.
All members of the Makos squad will be available to their clubs for the remainder of the season and the ITM Cup squad has two warm-up games against Canterbury on Friday, August 3, probably at Kaikoura, then against Otago the following week in Dunedin.
Their ITM Cup programme kicks off on Friday, August 24, against Canterbury at Trafalgar Park in Nelson at 8.05pm. The first of two matches at Lansdowne Park in Blenheim is against Southland on Wednesday, September 12 at 7.35pm.
The Makos also have a Ranfurly Shield challenge against Taranaki at New Plymouth on Saturday, September 1, if Taranaki win their first two challenges.
- The Marlborough Express