A top club rugby environment

Pirates Old Boys is a club with a positive future and a long history.

Pirates was one of the pioneering rugby clubs in Southland, founded in 1883. Old Boys Rugby Club was founded in 1928; initially formed to promote rugby for the old boys of Southland Boys’ High School.

At the end of the 2000 season, the Old Boys and Pirates Rugby clubs amalgamated to form the Eastern Suburbs rugby club. In 2011, the club changed its name to Pirates Old Boys to reflect its past.

Pirates Old Boys Hawks premier grade won the Galbraith Shield final last year, beating the Eastern Northern Barbarians 37-10.

The Hawks have had a talented group of players in recent seasons for head coach Mike McKenzie, and his two assistants Ben McHugh and Dayna Cunningham, to work with.

McKenzie has stepped aside this year after achieving his coaching goal and he has also joined the Rugby Southland Board. Cunningham has the lead role this year, while McHugh stays on as an assistant with Mark Tree joining the coaching group.

No 8 Jakob Harrex captains the side again this year with plenty of support from Craig Smith.

The front row is strong with the experienced mobile props Levi and Riki Gage and hooker Josh Harwood back with the team this year.

Young loosehead prop J.J. Fisher was in the champion Southland Boys’ High School first XV last year and hooker Shaun Kempton played in the NZ Secondary Schools team while at Rolleston College. Both lads were part of the Highlanders U20s team earlier this season.

Teenage locks T.J. Gallen and Anton Schroder will be learning plenty from the starting pair Craig Smith and George Hall.

The Hawks have an embarrassment of riches in the loose forwards with Dustin Coveney, Matt James, Ben Keenan and Hayden Hegarty all getting around captain Harrex.

Halfback Josh Murrell is playing confidently, linking with experienced representative player Greg Dyer. Young fullback Kaea Nikora-Balloch has regularly been breaking the line with his elusive running and either scoring tries or setting them up.

Former Stags midfielder Isaac Te Tamaki was one of the best for the Hawks in recent years but is now playing in France and fellow utility back Kepu Suli is playing his club rugby for Blues. The Hawks midfield is coping well in their absence with the skillsets of big Napo Seru and silky centre Jaye Thompson complimenting each other nicely.

The Hawks have made a good start to the season with a 15-12 win over the Barbarians, followed by a comfortable 45-17 victory over Marist.

The Hawks scored eight tries in their 54-5 win against Blues last weekend but Cunningham says although there were some good patches in the first half, the poor ball security was frustrating.

"The second half was more clinical, we changed the whole tight five and our bench bought the energy."

Hooker Shaun Kempton and fellow teenager JJ Fisher at loosehead prop were particularly good.

This Saturday the Hawks will play Marist at Miller St, Invercargill.

The Hawks squad could grow even stronger in the second round if they again take in any players from the Japanese club Toyota Verblitz.

The club’s B team are competing in the premier development grade. The boys lost 22-12 to Blues B and drew with Bluff last week 24-24. They will take on Marist’s B in the curtain raiser match this Saturday.

The club’s presidents’ grade team won their round one game last week over Blues 27-17. This Saturday the veterans will host Mataura at 1.15pm.

The club is also well represented in the primary school-aged competitions with seven teams. By providing a great rugby club experience, the POB Hawks hope to keep children and their families involved in the club well into the future.

 - By John Langford