Several new caps as unbeaten sides meet

Matthew Vocea
Matthew Vocea
Two of the three unbeaten teams in Heartland rugby will meet this afternoon when King Country hosts North Otago in Taumarunui.

The other unbeaten team, Wanganui, will play Poverty Bay in Gisborne.King Country opened the season with a 75-17 win over East Coast but last week had to lift its game to beat Buller 30-28.

North Otago opened its season with a 30-24 win over Buller and last week held off Mid Canterbury, winning a cliffhanger 34-33.

King Country coach Craig Jeffries, in his first season with King Country, has had a background of coaching in the Bay of Plenty and with the Steamers.

"I thought I’d widen my experience and  got appointed to the King Country Rams this season. The squad is a great bunch of guys," he said.

"But, as happens in Heartland rugby, players move on and this year we’ve got 11 new caps, but we have retained a good experienced core from last season."

Carl Carmichael captains the side. He has had experience for Tasman and before that, the loosehead prop logged up 55 games for Taranaki.

In the backs, first five-eighth Evan Reihana is the son of former All Black Bruce Reihana.

Outside Reihana is the experienced Joe Perawiti, who has played for Waikato.

North Otago has also been forced to make changes for the game. Lock Jared Whitburn is injured and Old Boys flanker Anthony Amato makes his debut at lock with Pita Sinamoni.

Josh Clark is absent after injuring his chest against Mid Canterbury and Junior Fakatoufifita, who came on in the Mid Canterbury game, takes Matthew Duff’s position on the openside flank. In the backs, player rotation means fullback Hamish Slater is replaced at fullback by Francis Kelly, while Matthew Vocea comes up from the Development XV to fill the left wing position.In the reserves, Harbour player Hemaua Samisoni comes on to the bench. He has the ability to play in both the forwards and backs.

In other third-round games: Mid Canterbury (7 points) meets West Coast (5) in Ashburton, South Canterbury (5) takes on Horowhenua-Kapiti (7) in an early game in Wellington, Buller (3) plays Thames Valley (6) in Westport, East Coast (0), chasing that elusive win, meets Wairarapa-Bush (2) in Ruatoria, and Poverty Bay (5) lines up against unbeaten Wanganui (9) in Gisborne.

- Terry O'Neill


North Otago v King Country 
Taumarunui, today, 2.30pm

North Otago: Francis Kelly, Simon Lillicama, Paul Tupai, Taina Tamou, Matthew Vocea, Josh Buchan, Inoke Naufahu, Mika Mafi, Junior Fakatoufifita, Filipo Veamatahau, Pita Sinamoni, Anthony Amato, Melikisua Kolinisau, Sam Sturgess (captain), Ralph Darling. Reserves: Jake Greenslade, Kelepi Funaki, Braden Barnes, Matthew Duff, Glen Sturgess, Tyler Burgess, Hemaua Samisoni.

King Country: Stormy McCarthy, Tana Tuakaraina, Alex Thrupp, J Perawiti, Shilo Cullen, Evan Reihana, Zayn Tipping, Chulainn Sowerby, Peter Smith, Oliver Kay, Rob Sherson, Sisa Vosaki, Joseva Curuki, Sean Wanden, Carl Carmichael (captain). Reserves: Liam Rowlands, Manawa Veitayaki, Douglas Clapcott, Mike Horricks, Cam Robinson, Tim Hounsell, Rotu Vosaki.

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