The career of Stephen Donald will come full circle when he returns to the PIC Counties Manukau Steelers team to play neighbours Auckland in the opening round of the Mitre 10 Cup at Pukekohe on Saturday.
Donald, who started his career with the PIC Steelers in 2001 while still at school, has been named in the midfield for the game at ECOLight Stadium, Pukekohe starting at 7.35pm.
The popular 33-year-old will form part of a potent Steelers backline outside Baden Kerr, who has returned after two years in UK, along with fellow Chiefs star Tim Nanai-Williams, who will play on the wing.
To celebrate the return of Stephen Donald there is a special two-for-one ticketing offer between 9am and 12 noon on Friday 18 August at www.iticket.co.nz using the code: Beaver. The deal is also available at ECOLight Stadium and two-for-one season memberships are also available during this limited time.
PIC Steelers head coach Darryl Suasua said that both Donald and Nanai-Williams have made a significant impact after joining the squad this week.
“Overall we’ve selected the 23 players who we believe give us the best chance of success and have impressed throughout our pre-season,” Suasua said.
“Stephen and Tim have come in this week and really stepped things up and demanded their places in the team.
“Overall I am pleased with our preparation in pre-season and we are ready and excited for a big start to the season and to host Auckland at home on Saturday.”
Co-captain Jimmy Tupou will make a return to action for the Counties B team after several weeks out with a hamstring injury, while others not selected because of niggling injuries include outside backs Glen Fisi’iahi, Albert Nikoro, Tevita Nabura and forwards Suliasi Taufalele and Matt Vaai.
Several players return to the PIC Steelers after either coming back to the region or after long term injury including loose forwards Ronald Raaymakers and Sam Henwood, Kerr, Donald and Nanai-Williams.
Players making their debuts for the Steelers include midfielder Sam Furniss and Brumbies outside back Nigel Ah Wong.
The team is: 1. Pauliasi Manu, 2. Gafatasi Su’a, 3. Kalolo Tuiloma, 4. Viliame Rarasea, 5. Matiaha Martin, 6. Ronald Raaymakers, 7. Fotu Lokotui, 8. Sam Henwood; 9. Augustine Pulu (c), 10. Baden Kerr, 11. Tim Nanai-Williams, 12. Stephen Donald, 13. Sam Furniss, 14. Nigel Ah Wong, 15. Luteru Laulala.
Reserves: Forwards: 16. Joe Royal, 17. Sean Bagshaw, 18. Coree Te Whata-Colley, 19. Daymon Leasuasu, 20. Viliami Taulani, 21. Jonathan Taumateine, 22. Orbyn Leger, 23. Kalione Hala
The curtain raiser to the Steelers v Auckland match is the First XV Plate Final between Pukekohe High School and James Cook. The match kicks off at 5.05pm with gates opening at 4.35pm.
The rugby festivities kick off early in the day on ECOLight Stadium field 2:
3.15pm Division 1 Manurewa High School 2nd XV v Papakura High School 1st XV
2.00pm Manurewa Development 2nd XV v Waiuku College 1st XV
There is also a central North Island match at Wesley College at midday.
12 noon: Wesley College 1st v Fielding High School.