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Ihaia West to tick another rugby box

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Sportal.co.nz     30 Aug 2013     Getty Images

The New Zealand Under-20 representative tasted the unique atmosphere of Newlands in South Africa for the final of the Under-20 World Cup last year, and is anticipating that Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium crowd will be similarly supportive of their home team.

The Hawke's Bay side were hopeful that Otago might take the Shield from Waikato but were brought down to Earth when unable to beat Bay of Plenty two days after.

"We took heaps of lessons out of that game and had a big review on Tuesday and we have been happy to work on those issues and get them right for this weekend," he said.

"We felt against Bay of Plenty that our skill levels were not quite where they needed to be, especially in our catch and pass, and we worked out that our preparation in the week before followed on from that. Our skills at training weren't up to standard and it followed into the game like that.

"This week we've been looking to get our catch-passing and communication skills right to take that into the game," he said.

West said the side hadn't really talked about the fact it was a Ranfurly Shield challenge. There had been no contact with team members from the side of the 1960s and the challenge had been kept on the back burner.

However, more than most, West was aware of the Bay's Shield record as the halfback in that side Hepa Paewai was a member of his club and a friend of his father's and he had also been something of a mentor for him growing up in the game.

But it was only in his last year at Napier Boys' High School that West made the decision between cricket and rugby. He described himself as 'an opening batsman with not much patience'.

"It was an unreal experience. It was my first taste of real professional rugby over there with the boys on tour and playing under the pressure that we did, especially in the final against South Africa when the crowd were pretty noisy.

"But I learnt a lot from it, about how to play under pressure and things like that," he said.

Hawke's Bay goal-kicker from season's past Peter O'Shaughnessy is the kicking coach in the Bay and had worked with West in refining his technique. He has two or three lessons a week with him and they have been working on some technical issues that have been affecting his approach this year.

Like most young players West is keen to play Super Rugby and hopes that by playing well for the Bay his abilities will be wanted by one of the franchises. His game has been developed through NBHS where Des Allen and Mutu Ngarimu coached the side.

He said Allen had been the first coach to instil tactical awareness into his game and to have him looking for space. And this year his stocks have been boosted with All Black Alby Mathewson returning to his home province to play for the side after extensive Super Rugby experience with the Hurricanes, Blues and Western Force.

"Alby's been really good for the team and both he and Chris Eaton have been helping me," he said.