Southland Boys to jet off to Japan

Team coach Jason Dermody. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Team coach Jason Dermody. PHOTO: ODT FILES
The fundraising is all but over, the bags are about to be packed, and Japan awaits for the Southland Boys’ High School first XV.

The side, riding high off its national top four victory last year, is set to head to the land of the rising sun to play in the Sanix World Rugby Youth Tournament.

Recognised as the only ‘World Cup’ for high school pupils, this year’s tournament marks 25 years since the competition started in 2000. Since its inception, the tournament has played host to 20 countries and regions. It has seen players such as Japan’s Timothy Lafaele, England’s Jack Nowell, South Africa’s J.P. Pietersen and New Zealand’s Owen Franks, Colin Slade and Matt Todd all having played at the event before going on to represent their respective national teams.

At the 2019 World Cup in Japan, 26 players who had played in the Sanix tournament turned out for a variety of national teams, while at France 2023, the number increased to 35 players.

The tournament is played annually at the Global Arena sports complex in Munakata City, on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu.

There are 16 teams in the boys’ competition with eight teams lining up in a girls’ sevens tournament.

Southland Boys’ High School will leave next Tuesday and are set to play their first game five days later.

They are taking on two Japanese schools in their first two games and will also play Jesuit High School, from Sacramento, in the United States.

The competition then goes into playoffs. Pool games are 25 minutes each half with play-off extending to half hours.

Team coach Jason Dermody said the boys were excited about the trip, which would be both a sporting and cultural experience.

Dermody said it would be walking into the unknown for him and his team.

‘‘We do not know anything about them, which is a bit unusual for us. But we can just prepare as best we can and go out there and play,’’ he said.

The side had about 10 players back from last year. Though it was a shame that many of the players who won last year could not make the trip to Japan as they had left school, Dermody said that was just the way it went.

As soon as the side was invited to the tournament, he said people swung in behind the group and an enthusiastic group of parents started fundraising.

There has been golf days and a big gala dinner, featuring All Black and old boy Ethan de Groot. More than $160,000 was raised to pay for the trip which will last just under three weeks.

About 50 players started training and fundraising and this had been trimmed down to 26 for the trip, with three coaches, a manager and a physio.

New Zealand has had some success in the tournament with Hamilton Boys’ High School having won the tournament three times.

The side will play a match against Kumagaya High School after the tournament on their way home.

Kumagaya is a sister city of Invercargill.

The side will be captained by midfield back Taine Withy, the third Withy brother to captain the team. The team narrowly beat King’s College in 24-22 in Invercargill on Tuesday in a warm-up game.

The team will land back in Invercargill on Sunday in the middle of May and then four days later will play Otago Boys’ High School in an interschool match in Dunedin.