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Blues v Fijian Drua: Lock Josh Beehre takes field in front of Whangārei home crowd

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Josh Beehre meets fans ahead of Saturday’s Blues match against the Fijian Drua in Whangārei. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Whangārei lad Josh Beehre will make his Blues’ debut against the Fijian Drua in front of an expected crowd of 15,000 people on his home turf.

The two teams will go head to head on Saturday marking the first in-season Super Rugby match to be hosted at Semenoff Stadium since 2011.

Beehre felt a buzz when he saw his name on the screen at the team meeting as the roster for round one of the DHL Super Rugby Pacific was revealed.

“I went to school at Whangārei Boys’ [High School] and I remember going to a Blues game in Whangārei when I was younger, so for this to come full circle is pretty surreal.”

The 21-year-old said he wanted enjoy every moment as he would only debut once.

“I’ll be soaking everything up and just looking to do my job for the team.”

Beehre had been part of the Blues development programme for many years. He represented the Blues at both Under-18 and Under-20 level and was around the team in 2023 training under a National Development Contract.

However, Beehre was this year offered his first full contract with Blues HQ. Selectors had been impressed with his 2023 Bunnings NPC campaign with Auckland where he started nine games and scored an impressive four tries despite being based in the middle of the scrum.

Beehre is one of two Northlanders in the squad as he is joined by Whangārei’s Sam Nock. The 27-year-old, who first debuted for the Blues in 2016, has been named as a reserve for the match against Fiji.

Beehre hoped locals would be field-side backing the team.

Josh Beehre says he was buzzing when he was named for Saturday's Blues match. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Josh Beehre says he was buzzing when he was named for Saturday’s Blues match. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Northland Events Centre Trust general manager Carina de Graaf said they were expecting around 15,000 rugby fans to descend on Semenoff Stadium.

She said game day was monumental for Northland as the match is the first in-season Super Rugby clash to be held at the stadium since the Blues played the Cheetahs in 2011. There had been plans to host three Blues’ games since but were canned due to Covid-19 and severe weather events.

Although, de Graaf said pre-season matches had gone ahead in previous years.

Adding to the magic, was that Northland would be hosting the Fijian Drua.

“This match is really special because of the beautiful Pasifika community we have up here,” de Graaf said.

The fun starts well before the 4.45pm kick off as the Little Blues – kids aged 8 to 11 from Hikurangi, Mid-Western, Whangaruru, Old Boys’, Onerahi, Mangakahia and more – will take to the field to play.

De Graaf said there will be giveaways for those who turn up early enough and Te Matau a Pohe bridge will even get into the spirit of things as it turns blue for game day. “We’re making the town blue.”

Drawing the crowds was key to securing future Blues games in Whangārei in the future, de Graaf said.

The game is also a milestone for prop Angus Ta’avao and wing Caleb Clarke, both from Auckland, who will be making their 50th appearance for the Blues.

Ta’avao will pack down with Kurt Eklund and Joshua Fusitu’a in the first Blues front row of the season. While Clarke is joined by fellow speedster Mark Tele’a on the opposite wing, with Zarn Sullivan rounding out the back three.

Anton Segner gets a start at blindside flanker while captain Dalton Papali’i and Hoskins Sotutu round out the pack.

In the backs, Finlay Christie and Stephen Perofeta form the first nine-ten partnership of 2024 with Harry Plummer and Rieko Ioane pairing up in the centres.

Two more Blues debutants wait on the bench with lock Laghlan McWhannell and fullback Cole Forbes poised for their first cap on Saturday.

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