Waikato’s Mitre 10 Cup team will play its first game of the 11-week competition this weekend against Manawatu. Announced last week, the squad includes Hautapu brothers Luke and Mitch Jacobson who both made the team for their second year running. Last year they beat the 23-year record as the first set of brothers to play in the same side for the province since the Coventry’s back in 1994.
This year they’ve helped make history yet again, with another set of brothers, Declan and Kylem O’Donnell, making it the first time in Waikato’s history that two sets of brothers have played on the same regional rugby team.
The squad also includes Hautapu players Ayden Johnstone, Sekope Lopeti-Moli, Mike Mayhew, Sam Caird, Laghlan McWhannell and Jono Armstrong. Mike and Jono are returning to the province to add to their provincial caps, playing hooker and loose forward respectively.
Also among the 37-man squad are ten full-time Super Rugby players and two current All Blacks representatives, Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown.
A large portion of the Waikato squad was selected from their strong performances in the recently concluded Waikato Club Rugby competition. “The strong club competition this season has helped prepare the players for the upcoming campaign,” said Waikato head coach Jono Gibbes. “The player’s energy levels are high and we need to sustain this level in this high pressure competition.
“The challenge for us and our playing style is to reflect the core values of the province, its supporters and sponsors.”