Experimental-looking Otago side named to play Tasman

Ben Herring
Ben Herring
There is a back-up All Black first five-eighth at fullback.

A sevens star and regular fullback has been named at pivot and there is a newbie at hooker.

It must be the pre-season.

Otago coach Ben Herring has named a strong side for the pre-season match against Tasman in Nelson tomorrow.

But it is also a side with an experimental look.

It is Otago's last hit-out before its opening game against Bay of Plenty in Tauranga on August 11 and therefore the last chance for Herring to experiment with combinations.

He needs and wants to see what Vilimoni Koroi will offer at first five. The sevens player normally slots in at fullback for the 15-man code, but he is being positioned as the back-up for Ioane.

Ioane, who has been released from the All Blacks, will play at fullback but will switch to No10 at halftime with Koroi likely to slip on to the wing.

''We're grooming [Koroi] to be a 10 for us and I think he is an amazing X-factor player who has all the skills,'' Herring said.

''It is just about giving him that exposure at actually running the ship.

''He has a good voice, he has good energy about him and he certainly plays an attacking style of rugby which will be great at the stadium. I think he is our guy.''

Hooker Nic Souchon has been drafted in from Canterbury. Regular rake Ricky Jackson is in hospital with an infection in his leg ''so we are just looking where to go in case things don't go so well''.

Alhambra-Union hooker Alex Frood provided cover from the bench in Otago's match against North Otago last week and performed well. But Herring wants to see what Souchon will offer.

Green Island No8 Dylan Nel, named this week as Otago Daily Times Speight's Dunedin club player of the year, will captain the side in the absence of loose forward Slade McDowall, who is out with an elbow injury.

Otago has named an extended bench and everyone is expected to get a run.

University captain and openside Jack McHugh has been named on the bench. He was one of the form players in the club competition this season and led University to a 38-31 win against Taieri in the final.

''We are going to use the back 20 of the game to give guys a little bit of exposure for the future.

''Jack has been absolutely outstanding ... and this is an opportunity to give him a taste. I think the world of Jack. He was just awesome all year and this is a reward for him to show him how close he is and he is [very] close.

''I can't wait to see him get out there.''

Herring gave his side a pass mark after the 48-14 win agaisnt North Otago on Friday. It was an improvement on the scratchy effort against Thames Valley in Wanaka last month.

But Herring wants his side to be more ruthless on attack.

''The big area we are focusing on tidying up is when we get into the opposition 22. We have to finish off the opportunities a bit more brutally.

''We need to be more patient and more clinical.''

Otago: Josh Ioane, Taylor Haugh, Aleki Morris, Matt Whaanga, Jona Nareki, Vilimoni Koroi, Kayne Hammington, Dylan Nel, James Lentjes, Joketani Koroi, Josh Dickson, Louis Conradie, Hisa Sasagi, Nic Souchon, Aki Seiuli. Reserves: Giorgio Bower, Sekonaia Pole, Angus Williams, Josh Hill, Joe Latta, Jack McHugh, Saula Ma’u, Kurt Hammer, Sio Tomkinson, Harrison Boyle.

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