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Two of Southland’s more promising rugby prospects have linked with the Otago Rugby Football Union academy.
Loose forwards Sean Withy and Jacob Harrex will both head to Dunedin next year where they will play for the Otago University Rugby Club while studying at the University of Otago.
Both have been awarded scholarships with the rugby club.
Withy captained the Southland Boys’ High School first XV this year, and was described by long-serving Southland Boys’ coach Peter Skelt as on par with any other player he had seen progress through the school.
Withy was thought to be a strong prospect to make the New Zealand secondary schools team, but missed selection.
Harrex captained the Gore High School first XV this year, which was unbeaten in the Southland-wide under-18 competition.
St Peter’s College flanker Fraser Ditchfield is another who would have been lined up for Rugby Southland’s academy programme next year, but he has shifted to Auckland to study.
Rugby Southland academy manager David Hall naturally would have liked to keep all the talent in Southland, but said competing against provinces which had a university provided a challenge.
"We’ve invested quite a bit of time into them so hopefully one day we can get them back and they will play for Southland if they continue on the path they are on," he said.
Hall said he was working through the makeup of Rugby Southland’s academy programme and hoped to have it sorted in the next month.
Traditionally Rugby Southland tries to retain its best young talent through the academy, but it also scouts young players from elsewhere in the country.
- Logan Savory