Plenty of new faces in Otago team

Mitchell Scott
Mitchell Scott
Otago has a fresh look for its first match this season.

It will get its preparations for the Mitre 10 Cup under way in Alexandra tomorrow with a warm-up game against Southland.

The line-up features plenty of new faces, including three Otago new caps in the starting backline.

Kaikorai midfielder Eti Slater will start at second five-eighth while team-mate Matt Jones gets an opportunity on the left wing.

Former Canterbury representative Finn Strawbridge will make his first appearance for Otago.

The first five-eighth came off the bench for Canterbury in the Ranfurly Shield defence against Whanganui last year, so he does not have much experience.

Former Northland lock Josh Larsen, powerful No8 Dylan Nel and Taieri prop Tom Hill are the forwards on debut, while Kees Scott, George Hendry, Sione Misiloi, Christian Lio-Willie, Legin Hotham and Matt Whaanga will make their debuts from the bench.

The team will be captained by Mitchell Scott. He will fill in for Sam Anderson-Heather, who is with the Crusaders camp preparing for the Super Rugby final.

''Look, there is quite a few debuts for us,'' coach Ben Herring acknowledged.

''But the guys have been together for a couple of weeks now, so it is nice to get an actual hit-out and see where we are at.''

Halfback Kurt Hammer and centre Josh Timu have just three caps between them, so Scott's experience on the wing will be valuable.

But Herring is not overly concerned by a lack of experience in the backs.

''That is just the way it is at the moment. We'll have the Super Rugby players back next week to add that little bit of experience. But it is a great opportunity for our guys to put their best case forward.''

The likes of Matt Faddes, Sio Tomkinson, Josh Ioane, Josh Renton, James Lentjes, Josh Dickson, Aki Seiuli and Liam Coltman are all missing, so the first-choice Otago line-up will have a much stronger look.

Hard-running loose forward Naulia Dawai is back in the side after spending time playing in Ireland, while Blues fullback Michael Collins will come off the bench.

Cromwell frontrower Kees Scott joins the team. He has been brought in to get some experience, while Lio-Willie and Whaanga have earned an opportunity following an impressive club campaign.

Otago had its season launch at the Sargood Centre last night.


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