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Otago will look to the engine room to wrestle control against Canterbury during an under-19 match at the University of Otago Oval today.
It is the first of three South Island seeding matches for the province ahead of the annual Jock Hobbs Memorial national under-19 tournament finals, which get under way in Taupo next month.
Otago coach Seilala Mapusua highlighted the tight five as an area of strength.
He had a hard job settling on the mix, given he was spoiled for options. With a beefy front row of Abraham Pole, Brady Robertson and Sepa Vaka and quality locks in Josh Hill and Sean Jansen, Otago can expect its share of the ball.
"We’re really pleased with the front row," Mapusua said.
"They’ve been in pretty good form all year for their respective clubs. It was definitely an area where it was tightly contested.
"I think our tight five in general is one of our strengths, I’d say."
Hill will captain the side and he shapes as the main lineout jumper. He is an athletic chap who has impressed for University this season, while locking partner Jansen is a combative player who is just as comfortable on the blindside.
Jansen is a similar player to Sam Dickson, who is unavailable, as he has been named on the bench for Otago for its Mitre 10 Cup season-opener against Wellington tomorrow.
Another area where Otago looks formidable is in the midfield, where Dunedin’s James Te Pairi and Kaikorai’s TJ Ane are expected to have a big impact.
Te Pairi will play in the No13 jersey but the pair have been given a licence to rove around.
Otago will also play Southland and Tasman before the finals. A win against Canterbury would be a leg up for Otago in terms of qualifying for the top eight.
Otago played in the bottom eight last season and eventually finished 13th, its worst finish since the inaugural tournament in 2014.
Canterbury won the tournament in 2015 and has always finished in the top four.
Mapusua is expecting Canterbury, which had a big win against Tasman in a warm-up game, to play a structured and tactical game.
"They’ll be very good at the breakdown as well and will punish you for any mistakes you make. It is just in their nature.
"But I think we’ve got a mobile pack and we’ll be working really hard to make sure we do look after the ball at the breakdown."
• The Otago Spirit will have a much better understanding of where it needs to improve after the weekend.
The team travelled north yesterday and will play in a "game of three halves" against Canterbury and Tasman in Christchurch this afternoon.
The morning is shaping up as a busy time as well with two 20-minute scenario sessions scheduled and a training session with the officials also planned.
Most of the squad is available but captain Tegan Hollows, Amy Rule and Jess Dermody will miss the trip.
Backs Rian Sanerive and Amy du Plessis and loose forward-lock Janelle Romanchuk will join the squad in their absence.
Otago V Canterbury
University Oval, today, 1pm
Otago under-19: Harrison Boyle, Levi Emery, James Te Pairi, TJ Ane, Sam Jones, Kody Edwards, Graham Urquart, Henry Bell, Gus McPherson, Josh Retter, Josh Hill, Sean Jansen, Sepa Vaka, Brady Robertson, Abraham Pole.
Reserves: Jake Fowler, Moala Katoa, Mamea Taimalie, Anton Schroder, Robbie Wong-Toi, Bob Martin, Llew Johnson, Elim Liko.