It's party time

Otago Daily Times - - FRONT PAGE - ADRIAN SECONI

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.

Viliami Tosi

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