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New Zealand men's softball captain Rhys Casley is still struggling with an injury four days before the world championships begin, with the Black Sox today calling in cover.
Two-time world champion Nathan Nukunuku has been called into the squad as a late replacement for the World Softball Championship, starting in Auckland on Friday.
Unlucky to miss original selection in December, Nukunuku has been included as injury cover for Casley and will replace rookie Jerome Haretuku on the 17-man roster.
Second baseman Casley has been battling for fitness since shoulder surgery late last year and aggravated his injury during last week's Dean Schick Tournament at the Rosedale Park world tournament venue.
While he seems capable of fulfilling his duties with the bat, his ability to operate at 100 per cent in the field is questionable and Nukunuku has been recalled to cover that contingency.
"Rhys is an integral member of this Black Sox side, and is our leader on and off the diamond," coach Eddie Kohlhase said. "It's imperative we continue to work with him before and during the world championship to maximise his contribution on the diamond.
"He can still hit and we plan to use him as required during the tournament but, to cover the possible loss of a specialist infielder, we've added Nathan to the group."
Unfortunately for outfielder Haretuku, in his first world championship campaign, he has drawn the short straw to make way for Nukunuku.
"Rhys' injury has changed the dynamic of our team and we were forced to make a difficult decision that would cost someone their place through no fault of their own," Kohlhase said.
"Jerome has worked hard for his chance, and we certainly cannot fault his dedication and contribution to the team. I know he's disappointed, but I also know he's young enough to help us win world titles for a while to come."
The Black Sox spent last week in a remote Northland location and have now re-assembled in Auckland. They are scheduled to play Czech Republic in a warm-up game at Simpson Park in Penrose tomorrow afternoon, before they begin their tournament proper on Friday night against Mexico.