Wakatipu High School takes brave step up

Wakatipu High School enters the unknown today.

The Queenstown school has been playing in the Southland schools competition. But this season, it has made the decision to join the Otago premier schools tournament and will make its debut this afternoon when it hosts Mount Aspiring College.

Coach Jim Gilbert said the match should provide a good guide for where Wakatipu sat in relation to some of the other co-educational teams in the tournament.

It plays Mount Aspiring in interschools games each year and usually loses by 20 to 30 points.

''We've been slowly closing the gap but we are still a wee distance away from them,'' he said.

''So [today's] game is pretty important for us to get a good measure. Have we been able to close that gap more and if so, by how much?

''We would certainly love to compete with the likes of South Otago, Combined Schools, Mount Aspiring and those types of teams.

''That is where we see ourselves at the moment ... but we can't really know where we are going to measure up.''

The pre-season campaign offered some optimism but also a healthy dose of pessimism.

The school beat another new entrant this season, Combined Co-Eds. But Dunstan High School proved way too good.

Gilbert said he lost track of the score but Dunstan got close to posting 100 points and might have actually reached the mark.

Dunstan lost 58-0 to Otago Boys' High School First XV on Saturday, so that result does not bode well for Wakatipu.

''We were able to score points but defensively, the system was non-existent. That was a bit of a shock to everyone.''

Gilbert said the team had addressed its defensive issues and was not expecting a similar flogging again this year.

''But it does highlight a pretty big gulf between the bottom and the top.''

Gilbert said the decision to join the Otago competition was made with the school's expected growth in mind, and there had been some pressure from Otago Country Rugby and parents.

''We are a pretty rapidly growing school so, with the right infrastructure and a bit of time, we should be able to put a fairly respectable programme together.

''It just seemed to be a natural step forward. The level of competition is a little higher, so our boys will develop more quickly playing against a better level of opposition.

''A lot of parents were pushing for it, as well.''

The school has four rugby teams - three boys teams and a girls side. But the school roll is expected to grow from just under 1000 to 1800 in the next five or six years.

''There is a lot of sport that competes for the kids' attention. Ice hockey is big here, as are mountain biking and those kinds of sport.

''We are running pretty small squads for the season but we should be building from three teams to four during the next season and beyond.''

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