New-look Otago side for regional tourney

Kane Jury
Kane Jury
It will be a new-look Otago side which journeys to Timaru today for the regional tournament.

Just one player — Ben Tuimanufili — returns from the team which played in Timaru last year as the side looks to qualify for next month’s national tournament in Rotorua.

Otago coach Kane Jury said a combination of factors had led to the new-look team.

Players have moved on, others had opportunities, while some were resting  after a long season of 15s.

The game was becoming more based around  power runners who could carry the ball well and, through that, create space on the outside for players.

Players such as captain Chucky Koroi, Ben Whale and Tuimanufili will be looking to carry the ball and get through the line.

Otago has been boosted by the inclusion of winger Jona Nareki, who is a contracted player with the national sevens programme.

He is expected to be one of the playmakers for the side along with Southern outside back Josh Buchan.

Josh Gordon is back from playing in Waikato and also being in Japan, and has been involved in the national set-up. Layne Opetia is a young player, who has just finished schooling at Otago Boys’ High School.

The side had a warm-up tournament in Oamaru two weeks ago followed by a series of games against Southland in Balclutha last weekend.

Jury said he was happy with the fitness levels. Much of the game was about players handling the pressures in a short period of time.

"Regardless how fit you are you are always going to be knackered. So it is being able to handle the pressures. Learning how to breathe properly and control yourself when fatigued," he said.

"Sevens is tough but to me it is what you do off the ball rather than on the ball. You just need to keep going all the time."

The Otago side faces North Otago, Mid Canterbury and Canterbury in its pool, with North Otago first up at 10.20am.

The top five sides qualify for the national tournament. Southland, South Canterbury and Tasman make up the other pool. Jury said players had the incentive of making a national development side which had been organised to help build depth in sevens.

The development squad would play in the Hong Kong sevens, which clashes with the Commonwealth Games.

Players who had moved on from last year include Ben Miller and Gavin Stark (both injured), Mitchell Scott (rest), and Taylor Haugh and Josh Timu, who were both training with the Highlanders in the past few days. Jerome Harimate is unavailable this weekend.

North Otago will line up a team based on its Heartland squad and will have a couple of fliers in Simon Lilicama and Matthew Vocea.

Meanwhile, King’s High School won two games out of six at the Condor Sevens last weekend and finished 22nd overall.


Otago team
For regional sevens 

Chucky Koroi (captain), Hemaua Samasoni, Tala Fagasoaia, Ben Tuimanufili, Layne Opetia, Iakopo Mapu, Jona Nareki, Josh Gordon, Josh Buchan, Ewan Brumwell, Mone Samate-Palu, Ben Whale.

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