Still three to four to be added to Otago squad

Ben Herring
Ben Herring
Otago is bringing in some tall timber for its Mitre 10 Cup campaign but has worries over the health of some of its key backs.

Otago coach Ben Herring last night announced his Mitre 10 Cup squad for the forthcoming season although there are some spots still to be filled and players will be brought into the side as needed.

Most of the team from last year is returning but there is the usual turnover of players.

Herring said there were three to four players to be added as, with some worries over the fitness and availabilities of some backs, he has held off naming the complete squad.

Outside back Vilimoni Koroi pulled his hamstring in the World Sevens Series tournament last weekend in Paris. Fellow sevens player Jona Nareki is carrying a thumb injury with suggestions it may need surgery which would end his Otago season before it started.

Captain and fullback Michael Collins is battling a groin injury and has barely played for the Blues. First five-eighth Josh Ioane is in the All Black picture and, should he make the squad for the World Cup, he will not play for Otago.

Herring said it was a balancing act to name the squad and with no clear back-up to Ioane the final selection of the extra players will not be rushed.

A wider training squad would start training in a couple of weeks which would include some prospective players to replace those injured. This will give them a chance to display their wares.

''With Josh [Ioane] that is an area of concern for us and to be fair right around the country. If we want guys to be ready then we can bring them in and have a good look at them,'' Herring said.

''We need to make sure where we are as guys are picking up niggles ... we just need to build a bit more depth in the backs.''

Former Otago lock Joe Latta, who has been playing in England, is returning to the province and has been named in the squad. Latta last played for Otago in 2014 before he left to play in England.

He will be joined in the middle row by South African Louis Conradie. Conradie, who is 2.04m tall and weighs more than 115kg, has played for the Cheetahs at South African provincial level and also for the Asia Pacific Dragons. They will join Josh Dickson in the locking department.

Herring said the locking area was something that needed to be addressed. Dickson had a huge workload last year and other players were forced to play out of position at lock.

Centre Matt Faddes intends to play the first game of the season, the Ranfurly Shield challenge against Thames Valley, which will bring up his 50 games for Otago. He will leave for the Ulster club in Northern Ireland after that game.

Gone from last year are Sam Anderson-Heather (retired), Donald Brighouse (England), Naulia Dawai (overseas), Finn Strawbridge (work commitments), Tom Hill (England), Josh Larsen (United States), Melani Matavao (Samoa), Josh Renton (Italy) and Tom Rowe (Japan).

Herring, who is leaving the position at the end of the year, will again be assisted by Ryan Martin and Tom Donnelly.

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