South Canterbury captain Kieran Coll will lead the New Zealand Heartland XV.
The Heartland side will take on New Zealand Marist in Auckland on Sunday before flying to Fiji for two games against Nadi and Nadroga.
Coll’s appointment was announced by new head coach Barry Matthews on Thursday.
Matthews and Coll already have a close association, having teamed up at provincial level.
Coll has replaced Peter Rowe in the leadership role after Wanganui flanker had served five years as captain of New Zealand’s best amateur players.
Matthews said Coll had the experience needed, having captained South Canterbury for two years and had played previously for Hawkes Bay.
“Obviously I know Kieran well and I thought it was a fantastic chance for him to learn off Peter, who has been an outstanding ambassador for Heartland Rugby for nine years.”
Coll said he was both surprised and delighted by his appointment.
“It wasn’t something I was expecting to be honest.
“I am looking forward to the challenge but it is a bit daunting.”
Coll said he was looking forward to learning off Rowe.
“He’s been a hell’va leader and a hell’va bloke, so I am looking forward to working with him.”
Coll teaches at St Thomas College and lives in Christchurch but was available for selection after choosing to travel and play club rugby for Pleasant Point, where his father Pat and uncle Cedric Coll had strong ties. He is not the only player who has opted to play club rugby away from their home town or city, with desires on making the NZ Heartland side.
First five James Lash and No.8 Daniel Hytongue are both Nelson-based but opted to play for Buller.
The exposure the championship brings can sometimes lead to Mitre 10 Cup contracts and the pair could be contention for Tasman next season.
Buller’s Marty Banks is one success story from the Heartland Championship.
After scoring a record 131 points for the province in 2012 he was included in the Tasman team that won promotion from the ITM Championship the following year.
The prolific goal-kicker was selected by the Hurricanes for the 2014 Super Rugby season and before heading south to join the Highlanders.
Reefton’s favourite son signed to play in Italy next year for Bennetton Rugby Treviso in the Pro12 competition.
At a glance New Zealand Heartland XV squad (*denotes new cap) Dan Hytongue*, James Lash (Buller), Aaron Lahmert*, Willie Paia’aua*, Scott Cameron* (Horowhenua Kapiti), James Hemara, Zayn Tipping, John Koko*, Aarin Dunster (King Country), Jackson Donlan, Maleli Sau*, Nete Caucau* (Mid Canterbury), Ralph Darling (North Otago), Lemi Masoe (North Otago), Everard Reid *, Siosiua Moala* (Poverty Bay), Timaru Tafa, Kieran Coll* (South Canterbury), Hayden Wisnewski* (Thames Valley), Eddie Cranston*, Sam Monaghan (Wairarapa Bush), Lindsay Horrocks, Peter Rowe, Viki Tofa*, Te Rangatira Waitokia* (Wanganui) , Josh Manning* (West Coast).