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Otago Boys’ High School First XV coach Ryan Martin may have started the mind games already.
His side dispatched its rivals from King’s High School 44-12 in the Highlanders regional semifinal at Littlebourne on Saturday.
But despite a powerful display by his forward pack, Martin believes his side will go into the final against Southland Boys’ High School in Invercargill as the underdog.
The teams played earlier this year, when Southland Boys’ secured a tense 13-12 win in Invercargill.
"They [also] finished higher than us in premier colts and they are definitely the favourite," Martin said.
That said, he was thrilled with the way his side’s lineout functioned against King’s. Locks Sean Jansen and Anton Schroder were in dominant form and the set pieces shape as an area where Otago Boys’ will look to press a perceived advantage against Southland Boys’.
"I thought our lineout was outstanding. We exerted a lot of pressure, especially around our drive. The lineout got us out of trouble as well and that is probably an underrated thing.
"We have an outstanding forward pack. Otago has a pretty special group of boys up here and they are tough. They are very tough.
"But it is probably a little bit disrespectful to our backline. There are some real stars out there, as well."
None were better than second five-eighth Burns Mills. He had a fine game in the midfield. His tactical kicking was first class and he picked the right opportunities to attack the line. He also nailed a dropped goal from 40m out in the mud and that took some effort.
But as good as he was, abrasive openside flanker Taine Te Whata was the star. He made some frenzied runs at the defensive line and some of his tackling was quite ferocious.His talent has not gone unnoticed. Southland has signed him on a provincial contract for next season.
"He has come on leaps and bounds to be honest. He is a leader in our team and he will be down in Southland next year, which will be good for him.
"We are really proud that he has been sighted at this early stage."