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North Otago's opening pre-season game against King Country in Taupo today will double as a trial for a trio of keen Dunedin club rugby players.
Old Golds coach Jason Forrest is keenly interested in how Otago loan players Rohan Wingham and Jermaine Pepe will go.
Wingham impressed during the Highlanders under-20 campaign and is a highly rated young prop, while University outside back Jermaine Pepe will bring some direction on and off the field.
Veteran Taieri lock Brodie Hume has also been named in the starting line-up.
Forrest said he pretty much knew what to expect from Wingham, who has stood out for his work rate and physicality.
"He’ll come up against some challenges in the Heartland competition, but it is really good development for him and we are really excited about having him on board," Forrest said.
"And Jermaine will provide a bit of leadership. We’ve got some young guys this year ... and he brings leadership and brings great chat on and off the ball.
"We are really looking forward to them putting on the gold jersey."
Hume has been called in to stiffen up the tight five. He is also a dangerous runner in the wide channels.
"We were just after someone who has an engine, who gets around the park and does his core role really well."
Hume fits that description nicely.
There are a couple of other familiar names in the line-up.
Josh Robertson-Weepu fractured a bone in his hand while playing for Harbour early on in the Dunedin premier grade. He opted to transfer to North Otago club rugby so he would be able to play in the Heartland competition, which he hopes will open further doors for him.
He has been named on the bench, while fellow Harbour back Mone Samate elected to make the move north as well and will start on the right wing.
"Mone has done really well for Old Boys and we are really excited about him."
Hooker Hayden Tisdall will captain the team for the first time. His form during the club season has been compelling.
The teams will play for the Maroon and Gold Cup.
To play King Country
North Otago: Josh Phipps, Mone Samate, Jermaine Pepe, Hayden Todd, Junior Ravuvu, Tyron Davies, Tini Feke, Junior Fakatoufifita, Josh Reid, Manulua Taiti, Brodie Hume, Epineri Logavatu, Rohan Wingham, Hayden Tisdall, Sione Palaa. Reserves: Kelepi Funaki, Lisivani Tuifua, Seta Koroitamana, Paea Fifita, Jake Matthews, Josh Robertson-Weepu, Matt Vocea.