No Lima, no problem, says Squire
Cape Town - All Blacks back-rower Liam Squire believes the Highlanders are
well equipped to make up for the loss of flyhalf Lima Sopoaga in Super
Rugby this year.
Sopoaga had driven the side around a lot for several seasons
and helped take them to a Super Rugby title but before leaving Sopoaga
had worked with local player Josh Ioane, Squire said.
“He showed him the ropes and he got a bit of a taste of what Super
Rugby was about and he’s an exciting player that’s come through the
Otago system and it’s going to be an exciting year for him and also Bryn
Gatland coming down from Auckland and they’ve got the old fellow that
keeps coming back in Marty Banks, we can’t get rid of him,” Squire told
the All Blacks’ official website.
“So that 10 position has gone from losing Lima and being a loss to
now being a hotly-contested position with three pretty decent players
putting their hand up so it will be interesting to see how that goes.”
While not playing against the Waratahs, due to his All Black leave
requirements, in a pre-season friendly last week Squire said the
Highlanders got a lot out of the game and an idea of where they were at
in terms of their preparation.
“The guys are champing at the bit to get started. We’ve got one more
pre-season game on Friday, against the Crusaders, to put their hand up
for selection for that round one game (against the Chiefs in Hamilton).
“There’s plenty of depth and competition among the whole group for positions,” he added.
Squire won’t be considered for the first round, but would then be
introduced over staggered minutes during the next three rounds. The need
for player rest during the season would be just another challenge for
coaches, he said.
“That’s why the Highlanders spent a lot of time during the off season trying to create that depth,” he explained.
“Managing the players’ loads is going to be quite important to get the best out of each player, each week.”
Squire had his own share of injuries last season but said he was
going into the 2019 campaign in good shape after resting well during his
break and he was looking forward to getting stuck back into rugby.
There was no shortage of talent in the loose forward area, both at
the Highlanders and around the country and that made the challenge to
perform all the more exciting.
“You’ve got all those players putting their hand up so it brings out
the best in each player so you can either rise to the occasion or go
into your shell,” said Squire.
“Down at the Highlanders we’ve got plenty of competition throughout
the whole squad but the loose forwards are where we’ve got the most
depth probably in the competition so it’s going to be quite an exciting
year for us.”