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Stallions hope to gallop over
Tawera Nikau's Stallions travel to Henham Park, in Auckland, today to meet Otahuhu, coached by former stand-off James Leuluai, in round seven on the Bartercard Cup national rugby league competition.
While the match-up pits the fourth-placed Stallions against eighth-ranked Otahuhu-Ellerslie, the big names of two former Kiwis stars turned coaches and the Otahuhu club's 50th anniversary are creating the most attention.
Nikau will face his old club for the first time as a coach in the feature game of Otahuhu's celebration weekend. Leuluai, father of New Zealand Warriors NRL star Thomas, has previously coached the Eastern Tornadoes in the Bartercard Cup but has taken over at Otahuhu-Ellerslie this season.
Leuluai played 29 tests for New Zealand between 1979 and 1986. Nikau made 20 appearances for the Kiwis between 1989 and 1997.
Included in Otahuhu's jubilee plans are a dinner tonight, the return of some famous players including Mark Graham, Hugh McGahan and Nikau, and a sizeable crowd at Henham Park tomorrow.
"We'll definitely be the underdogs," Stallions co-coach Len Reid said yesterday.
Both teams are coming off almost identical results in round six last weekend ?- the Stallions 32-14 losers to Wellington and Otahuhu 32-16 losers to Marist Richmond Brothers.
After having their five-game unbeaten streak halted by Wellington, Reid said the Stallions were eager to record a win and avoid dropping further down the standings.
The Stallions have welcomed back front rower Baz Tawera this week, while centre Joe Kaho and reserve utility forward Bam Taleaga will miss the game through injury. Warriors development player Sam Rapira and Hillcrest Hornets back Jamie Pooley have joined the squad.
With a flu bug hitting the squad, Matt Healy and Dwayne Wahanga will travel to Auckland tomorrow as back-up in case of any late withdrawals.
Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions: Blair Ingram, Richard Peri, Darren Campbell-Benson, Vern Moana-Mason, Hau Wilson, Nicky Kaa, Tukua Matthews, Baz Tawera, Craig Norton (c), Josh David, Epiha Kete, Kelly Tumoana, Brett Whitiora. Subs: Henry Kingi, Sam Rapira, Jamie Pooley, Brad Roberts.