THE size factor could be the difference in Sunday’s SP Brewery Pacific Cup final between PNG and Cook Islands.
The Kumuls defeated a much larger Tongan pack, riding on an impressive showing against world champions New Zealand two weeks ago, and did so without the need for a specialist front rower on the bench.
But the Cook Islanders bring size and conditioning to the game plus a nothing-to-lose attitude, which is sure to trouble the Kumuls.
The Tongans’ failure to use their size effectively against a lighter Kumuls side has inadvertently set the blueprint for the SP Brewery Cup final in which the Cook Islanders, despite their recent strong form start as underdogs to the home team, have a point to prove.
West Tigers strength and conditioning coach Sean Burns, who is with the Cook Islanders for the Pacific Cup campaign, said the team had size and youth but did not put stature as the team’s strong point. “I wouldn’t say we’re the biggest team in size although we have a few big guys. I’d say Tonga has a larger team but we’ve got loads of youth and that combination is good.
“The boys have trained hard and the confidence and enthusiasm in the team is very contagious. It’s pretty high at the moment, Burns said.
“It’s just a great feeling to be with the Cook Islands team,” he said.
Compared to PNG the Cook Islanders stand tall and can bring their weight to bear on a PNG team looking a little lean in the front row department.
Kumuls coach Adrian Lam opted to use a bench consisting of two back rowers, a centre and a hooker against Tonga and it paid off with second rower Jason Chan slotted into prop midway through the game, while starting props James Nightingale and Rodney Pora stayed out for longer spells.
With positional changes to the Kumuls following tackling machine Rodney Griffin’s axing and no extra front rower in reserve, the Cooks could look to exploit that vulnerability.
Cook Islands captain Tere Glassie and front row partner Ben Veau form the engine room that has brought the Cooks to the edge of Four Nations qualification and Sunday will see both men play prominent roles in the early forward clashes.