Otago Boys’ 1st XV
Coach: Bob Sinclair.
Last year: Champion.
The oil: There has been a lot of turnover, but Otago Boys’ will always put a talented team on the park. Fullback Hamish Faulks possesses rare speed and reads the game well. No 8 Phoenix Tapatu is a devastating ball carrier and front rower Petelo Amato is a powerful scrummager.
Coach: Jason Dermody.
Last year: Runner-up.
The oil: Beat Christchurch Boys’ 27-18 in a pre-season match in Christchurch, but lost 23-17 to John McGlashan in the opening game of the competition in Invercargill on Wednesday. Captain and first five Caleb Williams is a good distributor, hooker Rico Fisher is strong over the ball and openside Josh Evans is a quality fetcher. About half last season’s team is back for another shot.
Coach: Niall Gregg.
Last year: Semifinalist.
The oil: A bit smaller this year and will have to adapt the game plan. Moving the ball and keeping discipline will be keys. Inside back Dylan Pledger is one of those players who sees the game half a click quicker, openside Orlando Tuhega-Viatupu is an abrasive footballer, and prop Fergus Hepburn is a strong ball carrier and covers a lot of ground.
Coach: Russell Lundy.
Last year: Semifinalist.
The oil: Already got a good win under the belt with a 23-17 win against Southland Boys’. The team has an all-star midfield featuring Jack Timu, who has plenty of X-factor, and Josh Whaanga, who has a hamstring niggle but is expected to have a big impact when he returns to the field. No 8 Phoenix Abbott is another player who brings plenty of energy.
Coach: Mark Wilson.
Last year: Fifth.
The oil: Plans for this season have been shaken by the loss of a handful of year 13 players who have left school early, and there is not much depth in the backs. No 8 Lotu Fifita leads a decent Waitaki pack, and classy halfback Alex Wilson and Tyree Manaia form a strong inside back combination. Winning middle four might be the goal.
Coach: Justin Fowler.
Last year: Sixth.
The oil: The first round will be tough for the plucky Oamaru co-eds, who not only have to play the big boys but will do so with quite a young team. Fowler, assisted by Old Golds playmaker Josh Phipps and the well-travelled Dan Keno, will be looking for improvements in physicality and basic skills. Ben Kay is an openside of promise, and Beau Beadle and Maximus Fatafehi are talented backs.
Coaches: Tim Hutton and Clark Stephens.
Last year: Seventh.
The oil: A dozen or so players are back and the goal is to be the best of the middle four teams. Midfielder Josh Dent will captain the side and bring a solid defensive game. Fullback Jimmy Flannery is an organised defender as well, while openside Toby Harrex is a terrier over the ball and is an industrious player.
Coach: Hamish Crosbie.
Last year: Eighth.
The oil: About half the team is back and the goal is to improve on last year’s effort. First five and midfielder Rory Read will captain the side again and is a good steady influence. Otis Harry returns from injury and the No 8 is a good defender and lineout jumper. Prop Macu Hukui-Leebody is a dangerous ball carrier.
Coach: Roger Hill.
Last year: Ninth.
The oil: A reasonable core of nine or 10 players back and the top six is the aim. Captain Josh Smith is dynamic at the breakdown and the openside has a tremendous worth ethic. No 8 Sam Chapman loves open play and does not miss many tackles. First five Sam Waitoa is an agile ball runner with a sound kicking game.
Coach: Lee Hart.
Last year: Tenth.
The oil: The majority of last season’s starters are back, so the expectation is the team will be more competitive. No 8 Ben Barke will captain the side and lead the defensive effort. Inside back Xavier Small has a clever rugby brain and is a sharp goal kicker. Connor McIsaac slots in at halfback or first five and is a good communicator.
Coach: Ryan Rosevear.
Last year: 11th.
The oil: Going it alone this year rather than operating under the Otago Combined moniker. Targetting the middle four final with a good core of returning players. Captain and No 8 Lachlan Nicholl, first five Billy Hunter and fleet-footed fullback Ollie MacKenzie shape as key players.
Otago Boys’ 2nds
Coach: Mark Pledger.
Last year: 12th.
The oil: Almost a completely new crew with a just a handful of players returning. Should be competitive in the bottom six. Watch out for prop Vasilis Jouanides. He is an explosive ball runner. No 8 Sione Takataka is good over the ball and first five William Thode has a top passing game and good game management skills.