Region’s best rugby players pool talents
The cream of Upper Clutha, Wakatipu and Cromwell schoolaged rugby players played their first game in the Highlanders’ first XV competition at the weekend. Coach Hamish Crosbie, a Mount Aspiring College teacher and the school’s rugby administrator, said the squad is made up of 18 players from the college, five from Wakatipu High School and five Cromwell College students. They are aged 16 to 18 years. Until this season, the Upper Clutha under-18 team – or Mt Aspiring College’s first XV – competed in the Otago-wide competition, which it won the past four years. When the number of teams in the Otago-wide competition dropped from 11 in 2009 to four last year, the Highlanders First XV board invited Upper Clutha to join its competition, which is open to any under-19 player south of the Waitaki River. ‘‘We thought the best thing for our boys was to step up a grade and play in the Highlanders First XV competition, which is the best teams in the lower South Island. ‘‘We needed to be challenged.’’ Mt Aspiring College invited Wakatipu and Cromwell secondary school players to also take part in trials for the team. ‘‘It is the cream of the crop – hopefully we have the best players in the Southern Lakes.’’ The team played its first competition game on Saturday, against Otago Boys. Crosbie said the score of 99-nil was not a surprise. ‘‘Otago Boys first XV was the second best team in New Zealand last year. ‘‘It’s a massive change from playing against Otago Boys’ third XV last year, to their first XV this year.’’ The team played three warmup games, solidly beating a Melbourne school and losing to a squad made up of secondary school players from New South Wales. They also lost a warmup match to Dunstan, a team comprising players from Dunstan High School and Maniototo and Roxburgh area schools, which has competed in the Highlanders First XV competition for several years. It is also the first time the Mt Aspiring and Cromwell colleges and Wakatipu High School players have represented their schools. Until now they were instead affiliated to the local rugby club. The team has benefited from the expertise of high profile coaches Mike Cron and Aussie McLean. They recently spent two days coaching the squad, while they were in the south working with the Highlanders. The new team’s games have been attracting good crowds and on Saturday they will take on St Kevin’s College in Oamaru at 1pm.
Player elite: The best high school rugby players from Upper Clutha, Wakatipu and Cromwell had their first game in the prestigious Highlands First XV competition at the weekend.