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Yep. King’s High School First XV can expect another torrid battle up front.
King’s got past John McGlashan College First XV in the final of the Otago Premier Schools tournament last weekend despite backpedalling in the scrum.
The side scored a late try to beat Otago Boys’ Second XV in the semifinal a week earlier, so it knows how to win the big games.
But today’s match at Littlebourne presents a much bigger challenge for King’s.
Otago Boys’ got knocked out at this stage last year and the team is determined not to fall into the same trap.
It has a monster-sized forward pack, a dominant set piece and the kind of polish you would expect from one of the best school teams in the country.
It also beat King’s 32-5 during an interschool fixture in May and will start as firm favourite.
But that said, coach Ryan Martin has enormous respect for what King’s has been able to achieve. It won 14 games on the trot to claim the Otago Premier Schools title and showed real character in the playoffs.
"We’ve tracked how they have been going over the last couple of weeks and they’ve been going pretty well," Martin said.
"We are pretty wary of that and respect that they got themselves out of trouble in some pretty tight games.
"They’ve got a really good backline so we will be working hard to make sure we shut down the key players in the midfield. Martin confirmed the obvious when asked where his side would look to attack King’s.
"Probably around the set pieces. The game is on Littlebourne and it is obviously a little bit soft. It is the best it has been in the past three weeks but the set piece will become really important.
"It has become a real weapon for us."
Otago Boys’ has a big front row led by Abraham Pole, nephew of Otago hooker Sekonaia Pole.
Openside flanker Taine Te Whata is highly regarded by Martin for his uncompromising defence and ball-carrying ability.
Midfield back Burns Mills is a heady player with a clever kicking game, while fullback Layne Opetaia is a wonderful organiser who takes smart options.King’s co-coach Will Henry said his side was taking a "nothing to lose" attitude.
"They are a quality side with very few weakness. They punished every mistake we made [earlier in the season] so the big challenge is to eliminate any mistakes, especially in our own territory because they make you pay."
"We can take confidence out of the fact we’ve played two hard-fought and close games and managed to get through."
King’s will be without massive prop Sepa Vaka. He injured his ankle last weekend and his absence is another hurdle King’s will have to overcome.
"He would have helped us counter what Otago Boys’ will try to do. Not having him will mean a slightly different game for us."
King’s will have to clear the scrum quickly which will put the acid on livewire halfback Matt Horne.
Second five-eighth Giovani Leituala was dynamic for King’s against McGlashan. He made several telling breaks and scored all 10 points. His partnership with James Te Pairi in the midfield is an area of strength.
• St Kevin’s will take on Dunstan High School in the Highlanders co-ed school final at Alexandra today. South Otago High School withdrew from the co-ed final because of player injuries.
Highlanders Regional semifinal
Littlebourne, today, 1pm
Otago Boys’ High School First XV: Layne Opetaia, Max Brown, Midge van Boxtel, Burns Mills, Fausia Loulanting, Tevita Asi, James Arscott, Sam Jones, Taine Te Whata, Joseph Aldrich-Williams, Anton Schroder, Sean Jansen, Mitchell Mahoni-Rae, Jayden Henderson, Abraham Pole. Reserves: Tevita Pole, Jake Fowler, Taylor Dale, Taniora Raniera, Jesse Vaafu’suaga, Jordan Hand, Isaak Te Hiwi.
King’s High School First XV: Josh Duff, Ben Pringle, James Te Pairi, Giovani Leituala, Nathan Hastie, Henri Mitchell-Collie, Matt Horne, Logan Taimale, Dylan Tutty, Tom Hume, Matt Monga, Izaak Parata, Zac Mitchell-Collie, Jack Clement, Lemanu Ma’asi. Reserves: Shannon Murch, Dylan Clifton, Sam Stewart, Jack Addis, Sam Ryan, Ryan Jones, Esekia Satau.