Country looking to maintain hard graft

The Otago Country Premiers continue their representative season this weekend, with another almighty tussle planned for Ranfurly.

They face up against an Otago Development side full of players wanting to be selected for higher honours and see some Mitre 10 Cup minutes before the end of the season.

Country is coming off a very impressive effort over North Otago last week. That effort - albeit a losing one - will show the Country boys they can keep the pace with teams that are more favoured.

This weekend will be no different, as Otago Development will be well drilled and ready for a big one at Maniototo's home ground, passionately referred to as "The Offal Pit".

Country's forward pack really stood out last weekend. It soaked up plenty of pressure but didn't crack and it attacked smartly with a big physical presence.

No 8 Sam Calder is carrying on his stellar season for Upper Clutha into the representative games, too. He is uncompromising with ball in hand and makes plenty of metres.

Prop Fergus Smith and hooker Brady Robertson are also ones to put their hand up for hard work.

Skipper Ben Maxwell has shown his versatility in recent weeks. Maxwell donned the No 9 jumper in Country's first round match before moving out a spot to first five last week. He leads by example and does not shy away from defending against players twice his size.

The Otago Development team has some stars in its ranks also.

Coach Luke Herden was not 100% sure of his line-up at this stage, but he has plenty of fire power to call on.

Forwards Kilipati Lea, Henry Bell and Angus Williams are all coming off successful club campaigns this season, as is potential skipper, flanker Jack McHugh.

Lock Ben Morris has Otago minutes under his belt already this season.

Its backs will be solid as well, and the likes of Will Ngatai and Lisala Halaleva have featured in the Mitre 10 Cup already this season, along with hopefuls Josh Timu and MacKenzie Haugh.

A huge crowd is expected in Ranfurly and the Otago Country supporters' club will set up a tent with drinks and nibbles for all past and present players.

The Otago Country players know this is yet another step up, but after last week's effort they know a positive result is well within their grasp.

 - Francis Parker 

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