Rugby: Pleasing signs in Otago's sevens squad

Luke Herden
Luke Herden
Otago is well placed to successfully defend its South Island sevens title in Timaru in two weeks, after a solid performance in representative matches played at Montecillo on Saturday.

Assistant coach Luke Herden was pleased with what he saw from the extended Otago squad making up its two teams on Saturday.

"We've made some massive improvements," he said.

"For some boys, it was their first real structured sevens run-around. We're real happy with the improvements made."

With a number of top players still to come back for the South Island tournament and the national tournament in early January, Otago selectors will be spoiled for choice when they name a 12-strong squad.

"We've got a tough job now.

We have to start looking at who's putting their hand up," Herden said.

Otago stumbled in its opening game on Saturday, beaten 29-12 by Southland. But it beat a second Southland selection 26-0, as Josh Clark, Brad Weber and Hugh Blake created space well and Liam Edwards looked dangerous out wide.

Peter Breen was accurate and creative at first receiver, while youngsters Ben Hanley and Aleki Morris enhanced their reputations with some good line breaks and defensive work.

Heartland union South Canterbury was the surprise of the day, picking up wins against Otago (19-12) and Southland (29-14).

South Canterbury coach Gareth Burgess, a former Otago age group representative and Eastern outside back, believes he has the players to cause some upsets in the coming weeks.

"This was the first hit-out we've had and I'm very impressed ...," Burgess said.

"It's been good to play against the big boys from the big provinces and show our guys that it is only arms and legs and that we can hoe into them as good as anyone else."

One of the jewels in Burgess' camp is schoolboy George Lott, who proved a standout with his high work rate and ability to turn defence into attack.