It's party time
OTAGO coach Ben Herring has urged his side to treat today’s Ranfurly Shield challenge against Waikato as if it was a birthday celebration.
The key is not to get too excited, pass out and forget the whole event.
‘‘It is like a birthday. It is not like any other game,’’ Herring said.
‘‘And like a birthday you don’t not want to get so excited you start drinking at nine in the morning and are asleep by lunchtime.
‘‘You want to remember it and what makes it special is the people who share it with you. We’re looking at it that way.’’
Basically, the message is to embrace the challenge, keep a lid on the nervous energy and enjoy the occasion. If they get to unwrap the Ranfurly Shield at the end of the night, then it is a bonus.
It is not just a big day for the players, it will also be a memorable occasion for the staff as well.
As a player, Herring was lucky enough to play in a Shield game. He scored two tries for Southland when it challenged Canterbury in 2002.
Canterbury won comfortably, of course. It had powerful lineup featuring the likes of All Black greats Richie McCaw, Andrew Mehrtens and Justin Marshall.
‘‘I remember it was not too big of a deal at the time because we were at very long odds against a stacked Canterbury team back in those days. There was a ridiculous amount of All Blacks playing.
‘‘So we just wanted to get out there and enjoy it and we did as well as we could have.’’
While Southland was a raging underdog, Otago’s prospects look much brighter.
The team was well beaten by Tasman at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Sunday. But that game always had a the feeling of match the home side was just trying to get through unscathed.
Herring has brought back his gun Super Rugby players for the Shield challenge and Otago’s strength is in its potent backline.
Winger Jona Nareki has been in magical form. First fiveeighth Josh Ioane has grown in the pivot’s role, centre Matt Faddes has rediscovered his confidence and Michael Collins is a proven performer at fullback who has kept crafty playmaker Vilimoni Koroi on the bench.
‘‘There is a quiet confidence in the group but everyone is keep ing it in check. But there is a feeling if we perform well then we’ve got every chance.’’
Lock Tom Rowe was a late scratching. He has a shoulder complaint, which means Sione Misiloi will start with Josh Larsen providing cover from the bench.
Herring has put his faith in young prop Jonah Aoina and loosie Slade McDowall has received a vote of confidence as well. McDowall is starting ahead of the likes of Nualia Dawai and James Lentjes, who is making his way back from a neck injury.
Herring expects Waikato will play a ‘‘league’’ style of rugby. The home team will look to hit the ball up and probe for a weaknesses.
‘‘We need to make sure we’re tidy and get in some good [tackles] and make them play with a bit more width. If we can do that, I reckon we’ll do pretty well.’’
VILIAMI Tosi has had a taste of Mitre 10 Cup rugby and is now salivating at the prospect of more.
The 137kg loose forward, who stands close to 2m tall, played the final 20 minutes off the bench in the Southland Stags’ 568 loss to Auckland in Invercargill on Wednesday night.
Tosi (20) is also to be used from the bench in Southland’s final game of the 2018 season against Manawatu in Palmerston North tomorrow.
He said the short stint on the field against Auckland had given him an idea on what was required at this level.
‘‘At first I found it tough. Being on your debut you go out there fizzing and I was nervous. But once I got my hands on the ball, and got involved, it just became
another game,’’ he said.
Tosi’s presence was obvious as the Marist loose forward carried the ball strongly soon after he got on the field.
That ability to bend the opposition’s defensive line through sheer size and power is something Southland has had little of this season.
Tosi is well aware he is still a work in progress.
His offseason target is to get a bit lighter and fitter.
‘‘I’m about 136137 [kg]. I’d like to get down under 130kg. My fitness has always been something I’ve needed to work on,’’ he said.
It has been at No 8 where Tosi has made his mark in Southland rugby to date, but he was introduced on the flank against Auckland. Added to his debut challenge was that Tosi had just two days with the team to work through all the lineout calls and various Stags’ systems to ensure he was up to speed.
He is a touch more comfortable heading into tomorrow’s game against Manawatu and hoping for even more game time.
Tosi said at this stage he had nothing set in stone for next year but he would probably remain in Southland.
‘‘If nothing pops up, I’ll probably stay down here for another year and play another season for Marist.’’
Tosi is a former New Zealand secondary school rugby league representative who moved from Rotorua to Southland last year after his final year at Rotorua Boys’ High School.
As expected, there have been several changes to the team which lost to Auckland for Sunday’s game against Manawatu.
Lock Manaaki SelbyRickit and loose forward Tony Lamborn started against Auckland on Wednesday and will also start against Manawatu.
Ethan De Groot, Jesse MacDonald, and Morgan Mitchell return to fill the frontrow spots, while Ben Fotheringham comes back into the second row.
Ray Tatafu and Phil Halder, who was a late scratching from the game against Auckland because of a hip injury, join Lamborn to make up the loose forward trio.
Nico Costa retains his place at halfback and James Wilson returns to first fiveeighth.
Ray Nu’u and Matt Johnson make up the midfield, Isaac Te Tamaki, Rory van Vugt, and Lewis Ormond comprise the back three.
Manawatu has been bolstered by the inclusion of All Blacks Nehe MilnerSkudder, Ngani Laumape, and Jackson Hemopo.
Sam Stewart, who started the year as Star’s captain in Southland club rugby, will start at hooker for Manawatu.
The former Southland Boys’ High School player shifted north this year to try push for more game time with Manawatu.
He played one game for the Stags off the bench last year.
Kickoff for tomorrow’s game is 4.35pm.
Shoulder to shoulder . . . The Otago players huddle during team training at Forsyth Barr Stadium this week.