Triple trophy treat awaits winner of Oamaru clash

Jason Forrest
Jason Forrest. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
The Heartland Championship may have gone but there is still plenty on the line when North Otago hosts South Canterbury in Oamaru this afternoon.

The Heartland Championship was axed way back in March by NZ Rugby as it set out to cut costs as the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

The three Hanan Shield unions, though, got practical and formed a competition based on home and away fixtures to be played over five weeks.

Mid Canterbury and South Canterbury drew 31-31 last weekend to start the competition and now North Otago comes into the picture.

The match between the two old rivals will not only have the Hanan Shield on the line, which North Otago holds. North Otago coach Jason Forrest said the Phil Gard Memorial Trophy and the Bill Direen Memorial Trophy are also up for grabs. Competition points are also kept, so there is a trophy to be won at the end of the series of games next month.

Forrest said South Canterbury will be a tough team to beat and the North Otago team goes into the game as a definite underdog. It grabbed a last-gasp 41-38 win over Otago Country in Twizel last week.

The game in Twizel had been a mixed bag, Forrest said. North Otago had shown good composure and attacked the line well but made too many mistakes and was exposed when put under pressure by Otago Country.

Stand-outs last week were halfback Matatini Feke and forwards Junior Fakatoufifita and Kelepi Funaki.

The experienced Josh Clark has come back into the side at lock this week and he should provide some guidance to the side round the paddock.

Hooker Sam Sturgess is still struggling with a rib problem but it is hoped he will be back next week when the side plays Mid Canterbury at Hinds. Mid Canterbury takes on Buller today.

Forrest was pleased with the standards and culture set by the players who were realising it was a step above club rugby.

The match will be officiated by Nick Webster, of North Otago.

North Otago v South Canterbury

Oamaru, today, 2.30pm
North Otago: Josh Phipps, Sione Kavatoe, Antonie Misiloi, Samuel Tatupu, Mathew 
Vocea, Kayne Middleton, Matatini Feke, Junior Fakatoufifita, Marcus Balchin, 
Cameron Rowland (captain), Josh Clark, Epineri Logavatu, Kelepi Funaki, Jack 
Kelly, Robert Richardson. Reserves: Kurt Thomas, Samuela Babiau, Josh Hayward, 
Jared Whitburn, Toni Taufa, Ben Paton, Jake Matthews.
South Canterbury: Liueli Simote, Sireli Buliruarua, Pita Siale, Miles Medlicott, 
James Wilson-Bishop, Faaiele Iosua, Theo Davidson, Siu Kakala, Nick Strachan, 
Pita Halaifonua, Henry Bryce, Anthony Amato, Toko Fakatava, Junior Faavae, Vaka 
Taelaga. Reserves: Cameron Hucker, Aifaia Taelaga, Sale Pii, Ryan McNab, William 
Wright, Zac Saunders, Jared Trevathan
Referee: Nick Webster (North Otago)

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