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Teenager loose forward Oliver Haig and former Wellington halfback Kemara Hauiti-Parapara will make their debut for Otago in the opening round of the NPC against Counties-Manukau this weekend.
Haig will be making his first-class debut and gets his opportunity following some impressive form for the New Zealand under-20 side.
The 19-year-old also stood out during the pre-season, particularly during the opening 40 minutes against Canterbury.
Coach Tom Donnelly said the young man had been in compelling form and had forced his way into the run-on side.
"Oli Haig got an opportunity during the pre-season and did really, really well," he said.
"He also offers us something a little different for our loose forwards. It is a really good mix we’ve got at the moment."
With Christian Lio-Willie sideline with an ankle injury for the next three or four weeks, Otago is missing a big ball carrying loose forward.
Haig is a different type of player. He is more rangy and is an excellent line-out option. The captain James Lentjes will slot into the No 8 position and Sean Withy has been named on the openside.
Taieri’s Sam Fischli will provide loose forward cover from the bench.
Hauiti-Parapara (25) has played more than 20 games for Wellington, but was lured south to play for Otago following news Kayne Hammington was moving on.
He has been named ahead of James Arscott, who is still finding his feet following an injury lay-off.
Arscott will start from the bench but Hauiti-Parapara has taken his opportunity.
"He’s got a nice pass and skill set that he has brought down and he’s been really good."
Hooker Ricky Jackson has recovered from a hamstring complaint and got the nod ahead of Henry Bell. Bell is another who enhanced his reputation during the pre-season, but Jackson brings Super Rugby experience to the team.
Chiefs first five Josh Ioane was unavailable for the pre-season matches, but he has been named to start at No 10.
He will be a pivotal figure in the line-up. Otago has some talent further wide and it is Ioane’s job to make sure they get good service .
Josh Timu and Thomas Umaga-Jensen form a formidable duo in the midfield, and Otago fans will be eager to see winger Jona Nareki with the ball in his hands.
Otago v Counties-Manukau
Pukekohe, tomorrow, 2.05pm
Otago: Sam Gilbert, Vilimoni Koroi, Josh Timu, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Jona Nareki, Josh Ioane, Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, James Lentjes, Sean Withy, Oliver Haig, Will Tucker, Fabian Holland, Jermaine Ainsley, Ricky Jackson, Abraham Pole. Reserves: Henry Bell, Josh Hohneck, Saula Ma’u, Josh Hill, Sam Fischli, James Arscott, Cameron Millar, Freedom Vahaakolo.