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The Otago Whalers will be looking to build on the success of last season during which the team became the South Island Premiers and fell just short of the big show.
The Whalers were two points shy of heading to Mt Smart Stadium to take place in a promotion-relegation game with entry into the national premiership on the line.
Such a successful season will undoubtedly prove hard to follow, but the new-look team will be in good hands under the guidance of head coach David Reedy, who was at the helm last year.
Reedy is faced with the challenge of blooding some talented young prospects, following the departure of several senior players from his side. Among the prospects are some of this season’s standouts including University fullback Finn Langdale, South Pacific Raiders props Lausei Pritchard and Benny Rumble, title-winning Bears players Owen Draper, Chase Stephens, and Sebastian Potgieter, and Kia Toa Tigers utility standout Andre Kemp. The promising side will also contain several experienced campaigners including South Island representatives Tama Apineru, Camrin Brown, Hagan Free and Ricki Allan, who will lead the side, veteran Koben Katipa and Apii Taia and Louis Tili, who return after several years out of the fold. The first, and conceivably most challenging, hurdle of the Whalers’ season will be today’s opening fixture at Elles Road in Invercargill against the Southland Rams. Coach Reedy said the contest against Southland was always a grudge match which both teams hatedlosing.
While he conceded this was one of the least experienced Whalers teams for a few years now, he was confident in his balanced squad that contained some hungry and skilled youngsters keen to keen to impress on debut.
- Ricki Allan
Otago Whalersto play Southland
Squad: Ricki Allan (captain), Tama Apineru, Camrin Brown, Owen Draper, Hagan Free, Tayla Hazlett, Te Marino Huriwai-Briggs, Koben Katipa, Andre Kemp, Finn Langdale, Jong Hoon Lee, Josh McKenzie, Misinale Ofa, Sebastian Potgieter, Lausei Pritchard, Ben Rumble, Chase Stephens, Marcel Taani, Apii Taia, Chris Talauta, Joel Taniora, Louis Tili, Willie Time, Mikal Tuari, Talosaga Ueta, Jalan Wallace, and Joseph Wrathall.
Train-on players: Jordan Fuatavai, Teremoana Hamblin, Ben Hanara, Cooper Keach, and Hamiora Ngatoro.