New players boost for Otago

Otago sevens player Julia Gorinski at Otago sevens training at North Ground earlier this week....
Otago sevens player Julia Gorinski at Otago sevens training at North Ground earlier this week. Photo: Linda Robertson
Otago has been boosted by the inclusion of top sevens player Alena Saili for the national tournament in Tauranga this weekend.

Saili, who turned 20 yesterday, has played for the national sevens side and also made her test debut against the Australian team earlier this year.

The winger has a real turn of speed and bulk to go with it, and was a star while at Southland Girls' High School, helping the school to the national top four title.

With Southland not making the tournament after losing at the southern regional qualifiers in Timaru earlier this month, Otago has picked up Saili and Amy du Plessis.

Du Plessis is another fleet-footed player who will add some pace to the Otago team. She turned out for the Otago Spirit earlier this season.

Coach David Latta said the two Southlanders were good inclusions and would boost the side.

The team had performed well in Timaru, Latta said, and was looking to make a mark in Tauranga. He said the match in Timaru against Canterbury showed the intensity and energy needed to play at the next level and that was what the side was striving for.

Fitness levels were good, but it was always tough both physically and mentally to play at this level.

The side had been drawn in the same pool as Auckland, Taranaki and Canterbury. Latta said it seemed odd the side was travelling all the way to Tauranga and then has to play Canterbury.

But the side would just get on with it and was looking forward to playing at the new ground.

The tournament had been moved to Tauranga from Rotorua.

Latta said the side had been training well and was a young side with a core of experience. Greer Muir, Mikayla Latta and Sam Hollows were seasoned players.

Hollows was captaining the team and would play in the front row for the side. Positions were not that vital in sevens, Latta said, as once the set piece finishes, players have to roam the field.

The side will be without midfielder Kilistina Moata'ane, who has a wedding in Tonga. She played well in Timaru, but Latta said she was still working her way back into the game from a nasty ankle injury, so probably would not have played anyway. Halfback Sammy Wong also drops out.

Latta is expecting plenty of top-class talent on display, and said women's sevens is gaining popularity all the time as the standard of play also increases.

Otago will play Canterbury first up at 11.45am tomorrow, to be followed by a match against Auckland at 2.35pm. Taranaki will be Otago's final opponent of the day, in the last women's game of the day at 5.35pm.

The finals are on Sunday. There are 12 women's teams at the tournament. Otago finished 7th last year.

A preview of the prospects for the Otago men's team will be published tomorrow.

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