Rugby: OBHS fresh for semifinal challenge

Fatigue is simply not an option for the Otago Boys' High School First XV as it goes into its top four encounter against Napier Boys' High School in Rotorua today.

The winner of this game will get a chance to play for the big prize and be crowned the national school champion next week.

For Otago Boys', it will be the 24th game of the season, but coach Ryan Martin said the side was excited and looking forward to the match.

"We just took last weekend off, which was a real help for the team. Gave the players some time to freshen up and rest both the body and the mind," Martin said.

"After playing 23 games this season, you would naturally expect everyone to be a bit tired, both physically and mentally. But after the weekend off, the guys are really excited and looking forward to the match."

Otago Boys', which has not been beaten this season, last made the top four in 2002, when it lost in the semifinals to Napier Boys'.

The Dunedin school shared the national title in 1998, when it drew the final 5-5 with Rotorua Boys'.

The top four has a different format this year. Usually, the top four sides gather in Rotorua, play semifinals on the Thursday and then play the final the following Sunday.

But just the semifinals are being played in Rotorua.

Hamilton Boys' High School will take on St Kentigern College (Auckland) in the first semifinal. Otago Boys' and Napier Boys' will play the the later match.

The winners will clash next Saturday in the final, in either Auckland or Hamilton.

Martin said he had done a bit of research into Napier Boys' and it was a typical North Island side.

"They will look to move the ball as often as possible and keep it alive. They have got a lot of speed and will want to use it.

"So for us it is about playing our game, keeping hold of the ball and making sure we use our big forwards."

Napier Boys' qualified as the Hurricanes representative after it beat Gisborne Boys' in Palmerston North last month. It made the top four last year but lost in the semifinals.

The only injury problem for Otago Boys' is winger Eti Slater, who has injured his thumb. He has been replaced by Ben Miller, who Martin said had shown fine form throughout the season.

Big forward Troy Callander is back from an injured thumb and been declared fully fit. He missed the win over Christchurch Boys' High School on August 25 and should be a big asset for the side.

The First XV semifinals screen live on the Rugby Channel.

First XV knockout
Rotorua, today, 2.45pm
Otago Boys' High School:
Sean Conner, Josh Casey, Sio Tomkinson, Aleki Morris, Ben Miller, Sam Ellis, Josh Renton (captain), Alex Fitzgerald, Hayden Cleghorn, Josh Dickson, Shay Kerry, Troy Callander, Jermaine Ainsley, Sekonaia Pole, Ryan Williams. Reserves: Ben Hendry, Will Holdom, Josh Dawson, George Latta, Matt Ellis, Lisala Halaleva, Corey Miller, Jared Hewitt.

Napier Boys' High School: Sam McNicol, Ollie Penno, Trinity Spooner, Jesse Paewai, Shae Tucker, Caleb Makene, Uta Tupuola, Vinnie Guildford, Michael Buckley, Luke McKenna, Ryan Whitelock, Liua Tupuola, Kerry Love, Kyle Hewitt, Morgan Poi (captain). Reserves: Duncan Coombe-Gray, Patrick O'Shaughnessy, Jordan Meehan, Leslie Setu, Ruan Markram, Ethan Bradey, Liam Ward, Edwin Laver.


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