Veterans leading the way in Mitre 10 Cup

By James Perry

Today's Mitre 10 Cup launch revealed a few old heads who have returned to help develop the young talent. 

Six test All Black Tanerau Latimer was one such player.

The Tauranga product has returned home to where it all began, after spending the last four years plying his trade overseas.

"It's where we started, and it's where we'll finish."

He played 79 games for Bay of Plenty before heading to Japan in 2014.  He says he once told BoP centurion, Paul Tupai he will "get to a hundred."

However, he now concedes he may not get there playing "but maybe coaching one day."

Speaking at the launch, Latimer says he sees himself largely in a mentorship role this year.

Latimer is not the only veteran the Steamers will have in season 2018.  36-year-old Mike Delany will also take part.

He says his age "definitely drags the average up" in an otherwise youthful looking Bay of Plenty squad.

Latimer made his Steamers debut in 2004, a year during which some of his new teammates were only 7 years old.

Another former Māori All Black, Thomas Waldrom has also returned from overseas to play again in the Mitre 10 Cup.

The former Wellington and Hawke's Bay player has played in the English Premiership since 2010, and wore the red rose of England four times.

He says returning home is "about giving back to rugby."

The experience that the likes of Waldrom, Latimer and Delany bring will be helpful in developing the next generation of players in a competition where top level players are rarely seen these days.

Ranfurly Shield holders Taranaki, who in recent weeks have held off challenges from Heartland Championship sides, Poverty Bay and Wanganui, is another province who will benefit from the experience of a former All Black. 

Three test All Black Jarrad Hoeata, who Taranaki captain Mitchell Crosswell describes as a 'Will Ferrell lookalike', has returned to the province where he has previously played 68 games. 

Crosswell says the likes of Latimer and Hoeata returning to the Mitre 10 provinces "is pretty crucial in bringing these young guys through into professional rugby, or semi-professional rugby."

The Mitre 10 Cup kicks off at North Harbour on Thursday 16 August when the home side take on the Northland Taniwha.