Tough draw for Otago at national tournament

Otago has been hit with a tough draw but is intending to try to slide past the opposition at the national sevens tournament in Tauranga today.

Otago finished second at the regional qualifiers in Timaru a couple of weeks ago, and for its efforts will have to play North Island heavyweights Auckland and Waikato in pool play.

It will also have a southern derby against Southland, which is the other team in its pool.

Otago coach Roy Hawker will have Taylor Haugh back after he made his debut for the New Zealand Sevens side in Cape Town last weekend.

Haugh will team up with his older brother Mackenzie Haugh.

Gavin Stark will captain the team, and Josh Casey will play after missing the tournament in Timaru due to a last minute injury. University inside back Roman Blackman has also recovered from injury and has been named in the side.

Hawker said the side had come together well and fitness levels were good.

It did not have the power of the North Island teams so will look to play a game based around hanging on to possession and using quick feet and speed.

Hawker said the players had been working on evasion and improving their ability to stay out of contact.

In sevens, defence took a lot more energy out of attack so it was critical for his side to keep possession and tire out the opposition.

Taylor Haugh had a standout tournament in Timaru where he was the best player on the day, Hawker said, and he would again be a key man.

Harbour captain Charles Elton was the only true forward in the side with the likes of Ben Miller and Logan Allen capable of getting in and contesting the rough stuff.

Miller has played at the national tournament before and his ability in the air will be an asset at kick-off time.

Waikato, which won the tournament in January this year, has Declan O’Donnell and Jordan Bunce in its side, so will be tough. Auckland is always strong. It has Joe Ravouvou, who is not currently playing for New Zealand as there is new criteria to meet citizenship requirements.Southland will look to Lewis Ormond to spark the side while Aleki Morris has some speed for this game. Ignacio Costa will captain the side and  is joined by his brothers Nicolas and Rodrigo.

Southland will play Waikato at 10.45am today and then Auckland at 1.25pm. It will meet Otago at 4.15pm.Otago will play Auckland at 11.05pm then Waikato just two hours later, at 1.05pm. Otago and Southland need wins in the earlier games to make their clash at 4.15pm meaningful. Otago was 11th last year and Southland was 14th.


The teams

Otago: Gavin Stark (captain), Charles Elton, Logan Allen, Kieran McClea, Layne Opetaia, Kalin Thomas, Mackenzie Haugh, Taylor Haugh, Josh Casey, Ben Miller, John Tapueluelu, Roman Blackman.

Southland: Ignacio Costa (captain), Caleb Young, Leigh Bristowe, Nicolas Costa, Brad Kooman, Rodrigo Costa, Aleki Morris, Hayden Diack, Iwan Evans, Lewis Ormond, Jarel Hemehema, Viliami Tosi.

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