Otago Country up against champ

The Otago Country premier representative season kicks off this weekend at the Gore Showgrounds.

Otago Country is up against Southland Country in the first of five matches throughout the South Island.

The two teams will contest the Triangular Trophy which is currently held by Southland Country.

Canterbury Country used to compete for the trophy but has since disbanded.

The Otago Country squad was named after the Topp Cup match a fortnight ago and features a mix of players from the Southern Region and Central Otago.

The team named this weekend has plenty of experience and a fresh look as well with five debutants in the starting XV.

Experienced front rowers Dylan Mackenzie and Ben Millar, of Heriot, are joined by West Taieri’s Ethan Hippolite in his second season in the Country side.

This experience in the front row is contrasted by two debutants in the second row with Arrowtown’s Lachie Chambers and West Taieri’s Conor Beaton rewarded after strong club seasons.

Southern Region player of the year Liam Turnbull gets a fantastic opportunity on the flank.

The depth in the halves is outrageous with Wakatipu’s James Valentine and Clutha Valley’s Thomas Johnson starting this weekend with the talented Jared Edwards and dynamic Rhys Harrold waiting in the wings for their chance off the pine.

Try scoring machine Robin Fesilafai, the exciting Doug Smith, and rookie Clayton Buchanan make up a dangerous back three.

Southland Country’s squad is equally if not more impressive with numerous players in the side in the larger Southland Stags squad this season.

Skipper Ryan Carter packs down between the experienced Kane Prentice and Tom Scanlan in the front row with Tom Simmers and Brenton Howden equally as experienced.

Openside Jacob Coghlan has been released by the Stags to play in this match alongside first five Levi Emery who carries the keys to the Southland Country backline.

Angus Simmers and the evergreen Jeremy McLeod make up a dangerous midfield.

There is experience to burn on the bench with Ben Holland and Lachie McCall.

Ex Otago Country loose forward Cole Birse has switched colours now and finds himself on the bench after an impressive season at the Albion club in Gore.

Kick off is at 2.30pm.

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