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North Otago will have its final Heartland warm-up today when it meets Otago Country in Kurow.
Included in the North Otago XV as loan players are Pita Sinamoni, a lock from Kaikorai, Paul Tupai, a midfield back from Southern, Kieran McClea, a halfback from University who formerly played at halfback for Waitaki Boys’ High School, and Josh Buchan, another former Waitaki Boys’ first XV player who was a player of origin for North Otago in 2017. He returns in that role.
However, there will be no Lemi Masoe, the Old Boys midfielder and coach (with Ralph Darling) in recent seasons.
Masoe (37), who played his 100th first-class game last season, is only six games away from his century for North Otago. He has previously been employed by the North Otago Rugby Union as a skills coach in schools, as well as a mentor for Pacific Island players, but has recently registered for a building apprenticeship and is now part of the South Canterbury coaching team.
North Otago will be looking to improve on its impressive effort against Southland when it takes on Otago Country, which has only had two training runs.
Jared Whitburn, who was overseas for the Southland game, returns to lock the scrum with Sinamoni, while Valley’s Glen Sturgess will start at halfback against Otago Country.
Tupai will be at centre, while youngster Hamish Slater, who impressed against Southland, will start at fullback.
Junior Fakatoufifita and Anthony Amato will fill the flanks, with Mika Mafi at No 8.
- Terry O'Neill
North Otago v Otago Country
Kurow, today, 2pm
North Otago: Hamish Slater, Frank Kelly, Paul Tupai, Taina Tamou, Matt Vocea, Tyler Burgess, Glen Burgess, Mika Mafi, Anthony Amato, Junior Fakatoufifita, Pita Sinamoni, Jared Whitburn, Kelepi Funaki, Sam Sturgess (captain), Meli Kolinisau. Reserves: Jake Greenslade, Ralph Darling or Tom Shields, Braden Barnes, Filipo Veamatahau or Matt Duff, Kieran McClea, Ross Lewis, Sam Tatupu, Josh Buchan.
Otago Country: Tom Grandiek, Mark Te Whaiti, Warrick Chinney, Reece Harrold, Robin Fesilafai, Dane Edge, Ben Maxwell, Sam Calder, Cole Brise, Ollie McLelland, Stefan Blakeborough, Malcolm Sutherland, Tim O’Neil, Joe Cairns, Ben Millar. Reserves: George Ravula, Chris Preddy, Peter O’Malley, Simon Grant, Max Pennell, Jamie Sutton, Rynard Kruger, Hayden Todd, Angus Gibb, Tyler Bichan, Ryan Edgerton.