North Otago coach Jason Forrest is asking the public to join him in “daring to dream”.
His side faces Otago today to challenge for one of the most prestigious trophies in New Zealand sport – the Ranfurly Shield.
Forrest said the North Otago squad had a mix of experience and “exciting young guys”.
North Otago has opted for a six-two split of forwards to backs, based on the expected damp conditions.
Old Boys flanker Toni Taufa could double as a back if the need arose, Forrest said.
The majority of the team has come from the Citizens Shield competition, with the addition of Woody Kirkwood, a lock from Green Island, and Jacob Coghlan, a versatile forward from Alhambra-Union and former St Kevin’s College First XV captain, who gets a chance as a player of origin.
Forrest said the key would be keeping emotions in check when it came to running out in front of what he hoped would be a big crowd.
“[Otago] will bring it, because in the Thames Valley game they didn’t start very good at all,” Forrest said.
“There will be some nerves, and that will be from the coaching and management group as well.”
Forrest said his team could only dare to dream and he hoped the North Otago community would do the same.
“We certainly aren’t going into this game thinking we are going to lose.
“The more support for the boys, the better it will be.”
Five new caps selected in team to defend Shield
Herring has had to ”think outside the box” in naming his side for the Ranfurly Shield defence against North Otago in Oamaru.
He has selected five new caps after naming seven newbies for the first defence against Thames Valley in Wanaka earlier this month.
His choices were reduced this week because he was unable to pick players involved in the Dunedin club final at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday.
Herring is not at all put out about it. In fact, he said it was a wonderful initiative from the Otago Rugby Football Union to help make the premier club final between University and Taieri a special occasion.
”It has been a really awesome thing, which Richard Kinley [ORFU general manager] has been pushing for, in particular, to really promote the club rugby finals,” Herring said.
”He has made a lot of awesome calls around keeping that final special and making some of the guys who have played club footy all the way through definitely available for that.
”That means we’ve had to think outside the box on a few occasions. But after learning from last year I think it is the right way to go.”
Among the five new names is experienced first five-eighth Ash Moeke, who has recently returned from playing in France.
The 31-year-old made his first-class debut as a 20-year-old for Northland. He also played a couple of seasons for Auckland and had a stint with Southland in 2015.
He has joined Otago this week and is essentially on trial. The province is looking for a back-up pivot and, if Moeke impresses, he may end up with a contract to ink.
”He has come down to get a bit of a feel and we’ll see after the game where we go afterwards,” Herring said.
Moeke will start while the other four new caps will have to make an impact off the bench.
Hard-working Alhambra-Union hooker Alex Frood will provide cover for Sekonaia Pole. He has been a standout for the Broncos this season.
”He has played over 50 games for AU, he is in the development team and it is a great reflection on a guy that has put in a massive club shift and made the step up from an underperforming team,” Herring said.
”He is a tough bugger, too.”
South African halfback Rowan Gouws joined Kaikorai towards the end of the season and made a big impact.
”He has come over to try and crack it … and he has certainly turned some heads at Kaikorai. He is just a good keen fellow with a good skill set and a real dog in and around the defence as well. He could go pretty well, I’m expecting.”
Dunedin colts outside back Harrison Boyle is part of Otago’s apprentice programme and has also been named on the bench, while Cromwell midfielder Hayden Todd has been a standout in the Central Otago premier grade this season and gets an opportunity.
All Blacks sevens players Vilimoni Koroi and Jona Nareki will fill two of the three outside back slots. Harbour fullback Sala Halaleva, who has been struggling with a foot injury this season, will start on the left wing.
The Hawks have a solid presence with midfield combination Aleki Morris and Sio Tomkinson named in the starting side, while Sione Misiloi and Pole will add grunt to the pack, which also features Giorgio Bower, who played for the club before moving north to play for the Crusaders.
There is more Harbour beef on the bench, in the form off massive prop Saula Ma’u and utility forward Joketaki Koroi.