'Good energy' in Otago squad

Otago rugby coach Ben Herring (left) pictured with new players Sione Misiloi, Josh Larsen and...
Otago rugby coach Ben Herring (left) pictured with new players Sione Misiloi, Josh Larsen and Josh Timu at Logan Park yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Otago may have lost some talent from last year but it has named an experienced side to compete in the Mitre 10 Cup this season.

New Otago coach Ben Herring named the squad last night and it includes eight Highlanders and six new caps in a 29-strong squad.

The new caps are: first five-eighth Finn Strawbridge, loose forward Dylan Nel, lock-loose forwards Sione Misiloi and Joketani Koroi, lock Josh Larsen and prop Tom Hill.

The side includes two key men who did not play for Otago last year in hooker Liam Coltman and fullback Michael Collins.

Ben Smith has been named but he is unlikely to play because of All Blacks commitments.

Herring said he had to make some tough calls around the mix of the side.

"We'd love to take three halfbacks, for example, and another lock and another midfielder,'' he said.

"But I'm really enjoying the squad. It has got a good feel, a good energy.

"There are a lot of new faces who are itching to get out there. It is a really exciting group of guys with a lot of talent coming through.

"I can't wait until we start getting down to action.''

Traditionally, the Otago side has not been named until near the end of the club season, letting players display some good club form at the business end of the season.

But Herring had indicated he wanted to get the team picked after the first round of the club season had finished and get into training.

Feedback last year was that players and coaches did not like the team being named late and it affected the team at the start of the season.

The newcomers come from far and wide.

Nel has made a big impact in Christchurch club rugby and played for the Crusaders at the Brisbane 10s. He has signed a two-year deal with Otago and will move down at the end of the club season in Christchurch.

Strawbridge was banned for two years in 2015 for ordering a performance-enhancing drug over the internet. He moved down from Christchurch this season and has impressed at first five-eighth for Green Island, having a good pair of hands and vision.

He is likely to back up Josh Ioane.

Taieri lock Larsen played previously for Northland and moved south to chase a provincial spot. Harbour forwards Sione Misiloi and Joketani Koroi are damaging ball-runners, while Hill played for Tasman last year and has impressed for Taieri.

Its pre-season fixtures have been decided and will be all in the South Island.

Along with the game of three halves fixture in Christchurch, where it will play the All Blacks and Canterbury on August 10, it will also play the Spartans - a shadow Southland side - and then play Southland in Alexandra. It kicks off the Mitre 10 Cup against Wellington in the capital on August 19. The players will be withdrawn from their club teams after the round of July 14.

Major losses from last year are: Fletcher Smith (Waikato), Tei Walden (Taranaki), Hayden Parker (Japan), Jono Ruru (Auckland), Dillon Hunt (North Harbour), Blair Tweed (Japan), Adam Knight (France) and Josh Furno (Western Australia).


Mitre 10 Cup
Otago squad
Vilimoni Koroi, Ben Smith, Jona Nareki, Mitch Scott, Josh Timu, Matt Faddes, Michael Collins, Sio Tomkinson, Finn Strawbridge, Josh Ioane, Kurt Hammer, Josh Renton, Dylan Nel, Naulia Dawai, James Lentjes, Slade McDowall, Sione Misiloi, Josh Dickson, Tom Rowe, Joketani Koroi, Josh Larsen, Hisa Sasagi, Aki Seiuli, Tom Hill, Donald Brighouse, Jonah Aoina, Sam Anderson-Heather, Liam Coltman, Sekonaia Pole.

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