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Steamers Dream And Ask Why Not ?
6 June 2005, 11:07 am
"Some people see things that have happened and ask why. We dream of things that never were, and ask why not," he said with a wry laugh.
Nearly seven months ago, a dispirited Bay of Plenty side wandered off Christchurch's Jade Stadium having been thumped 44-12 by Canterbury in their NPC semi-final.

They had been clinically unpicked by a team laden with 16 All Blacks, who would go on to win the NPC and then form the basis of the Super 12-winning outfit a week ago.

That toweling aside, it was generally regarded as the best Bay of Plenty team fielded by the province in almost three decades, if not ever. On Wednesday, Steamers coach Vern Cotter named an eerily similar lineup to play the Lions in Rotorua on Saturday night - a side that may well be collectively stronger through the sum of its parts than last year. Sure, there's no Glen Jackson and there's no Rua Tipoki, two of the stars of 2004. But back from injury have come halfback Kevin Senio and hooker Aleki Lutui, who missed large parts of last season, and fresh-faced imports, first-five Murray Williams and wing Filimone Bolavucu.

Alleviating Tipoki's absence is centre Allan Bunting, who played the last 20 minutes of that semi-final in Christchurch and was one of the few Bay players to shine.

Seven of the pack return, all boasting Super 12 experience this season, and four backs - Adrian Cashmore, Grant McQuoid, Senio and Anthony Tahana (wider training squad) have been involved with the Chiefs.

Despite only having the best part of a week to prepare against a near-test strength Lions outfit, Cotter was confident every effort has been made to be at full strength.

"I'm pleased with the way the team has come along in the last few days," Cotter said. "It hasn't been a lot of time but there's certainly been a lot of focus from the players and a lot of energy."

The Lions have already made one change for the tour opener - Irish lock Malcolm O'Kelly has been replaced on the reserve bench after he failed to recover sufficiently from an abdominal strain. Compatriot Donncha O'Callaghan has taken his place.

Despite that, the visitors are raging favourites, boasting proven international players like Josh Lewsey, Brian O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara, Lawrence Dallaglio, Richard Hill and Ben Kay.

However, for many of the team, it will be their first game together whereas Bay of Plenty have had the same core side for the past three seasons. It provided enough of a glimmer of hope for Cotter, unusually cerebral for a rough Te Puke farmer and rugby coach, to start quoting famous playwrights.

"Some people see things that have happened and ask why. We dream of things that never were, and ask why not," he said with a wry laugh.

His ebullience wasn't surprising - he's only just finished a stint with the champion Crusaders side as Robbie Deans' assistant. That buoyancy was also in his players, somewhat sheltered at their Tauranga base from the building hype of the tourists.

"They're excited but they're probably not quite sure what's in front of them. There are plenty of questions and there will only be one answer on Saturday night."

By Jamie Troughton - Bay of Plenty Times.

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