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It is a short trip up the highway for North Otago today as it looks to get one over one of its closest rivals.
North Otago and Mid Canterbury both had wins last week and will do battle at the Ashburton Showgrounds this afternoon.
North Otago downed Buller on the opening day 30-24, and Mid Canterbury, under coach Sean Carter, beat Horowhenua-Kapiti by the same score.
Carter has had plenty of experience in his build-up to the Heartland Championship, a period of more than 25 years learning the coaching trade.Carter has coached right through the grades and then spent some time in Russia.
After his return from Russia in 2012 he spent time with Wayne Fox with the strong Rakaia club before stepping up to the first-class level with Mid Canterbury. He is very aware of the pressure on players, even at this level.
"Coaches must be aware not to overdo the intensity even at the Heartland level. I believe that you’ve got to find a balance with the intensity of the rugby. It’s important that you break the monopoly of training and playing in what is an intense one, even at this level," he said.
Carter has brought 12 new faces into the Mid Canterbury squad, including a number of young local players.
Included is Tom Blyth, a forward from Rakaia, Sam Cottam, a tighthead prop from the Christchurch club, Don Fransen, from the Sydenham club, and at No8 will be Aaron Einnarson, originally from Hawke’s Bay.
Jarred Percival, from Christchurch Old Boys, will be at first five-eighth or fullback.North Otago coaches Nigel Walsh and Jason Forrest have made two changes to the side that defeated Buller last weekend. Meli Kolinisau returns to the tighthead prop position after missing the Buller game because of a head knock, while lock Jared Whitburn is out with a leg injury.
His place has been taken by Josh Clark, a loan player from Dunedin who over the years has played 25 games for North Otago.In other round two matches, Buller (2 points) plays King Country (5) at Westport, East Coast (0) meets Horowhenua-Kapiti (2), South Canterbury (0) meets Poverty Bay (5), Wairarapa-Bush (1) plays Thames Valley (1) and West Coast (5) will play Wanganui (4).
- Terry O'Neill
North Otago v Mid Canterbury
Ashburton, today, 2.30pm
North Otago: Hamish Slater, Simon Lillicama, Paul Tupai, Taina Tamou, Francis Kelly, Josh Buchan, Inoke Naufahu, Mika Mafi, Matthew Duff, Filipo Veamatahau, Pita Sinamona, Joshua Clark, Melikisua Kolinisau, Sam Sturgess (captain), Ralph Darling. Reserves: Jake Greenslade, Kelepi Funaki, Braden Barnes, Junior Fakatoufifita, Glen Sturgess, Tyler Burgess, Matthew Vocea.
Mid Canterbury: Dan Fransen, Hugh Griffiths, Tom Hanham-Carter, Andrew Letham, Timoci Nabakeke, Jared Percival, Tyler Blackburn, Aaron Einnarson, Seta Koroitamana, Angus Lindsay, Eric Duff, Matt Bentley, Sam Cottam, Jackson Donlan, Tom Heywood. Reserves: Angus McKenzie, Penisimani Fakatoka, Tom Blyth, Shepperd Mhembere, Will McKenzie, Brian Matoramusha, Nathan McCloy.