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On the charge . . . St Kevin's College prop Tupou Fifita tries to break the King's High School defence during a preseason First XV game in Oamaru last month. In support are Tama Wooldridge (left) and Cameron Dodd. PHOTO: PHIL JANSSEN

Club rugby is under way, and secondary school rugby is soon to follow. Hayden Meikle catches up with coaches from the two Oamaru First XV teams to see how they are tracking.

WAITAKI BOYS’ HIGH SCHOOL

It must be like riding a bike for Wayne Kinzett.

The long-serving coach is back for a remarkable fourth separate stint at the helm of the Waitaki Boys’ First XV, no fewer than 21 years since he first held the job.

Kinzett coached the First XV in 1997-98, then guided Athletic to the Citizens Shield in 2000.

He went back to Waitaki Boys’ for a few years when he was hostel manager, then coached Athletic again for seven seasons, then rejoined the school in 2015-16.

Wayne Kinzett

After a year off, Kinzett is back in a role that fits him like a glove, although he acknowledges it has changed a little over two decades.

“For me, I’ve been around a long time, so I think I know when some things might not work,” he said.

“But it’s certainly a bit different now. As a coach, you have to adapt to change, because boys are a bit different these days.”

At the same time, Kinzett believes some things have changed little over that long period of time.

He cites the buzz he got on a bus trip home from a recent camp in Christchurch when the Waitaki lads broke into a haka as they neared Oamaru.

“They’ve still got that real pride in being part of the Waitaki Boys’ First XV. That never changes.”

Kinzett is joined in the coaching team by young Northern Irishman Niall Gregg, a popular figure at the school who helped coach a very successful Waitaki colts team in 2016.

It will be a relatively young First XV, and it certainly will not be the biggest, but Kinzett is confident the talent and character in the squad will compensate for that.

“It’s an intelligent side. We’re not big, so we have to use our brains. We need to be clever.

“Size is something we possibly lack but we certainly won’t be lacking in heart or intelligence.”

Waitaki Boys’ narrowly failed to make the top four in the Otago schools competition last year – a wonderful performance in the Blood Match provided some consolation – and Kinzett is hopeful of improving on that effort.

“For us, our goal is to win it. Obviously making the top six is the first step, but our goal is to win the competition.”

ST KEVIN’S COLLEGE

Robbie Breen noticed some small steps last season – now he wants St Kevin’s to take a giant leap.

Oamaru’s co-ed secondary school did not, it is fair to say, have a vintage year in 2017.

St Kevin’s struggled through much of the premier schools competition, and did not enjoy a 29-0 humiliation in the Blood Match.

But schoolboy rugby is a cyclical beast, and Breen hopes there will be clear signs of an upward swing for the Redcastle men this year.

“We’re a lot further along than what we were at this time last year,” Breen said.

“We’re a lot bigger, we’re more experienced, and we’re more comfortable with dealing with a higher level of training.

“So we’re painting a much brighter picture at this stage.”

Robbie Breen

St Kevin’s has a stable squad with about 80% of last year’s players back, and Breen sees no real weakness on paper.

“Our forward pack has a decent amount of size and mobility, and we also have pace out wide, so we’ll be looking to play with breakneck speed.

“We’re certainly fit enough, and I believe we’re skilful enough. Now it’s about getting a bit of belief.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Breen does not list regaining the coveted “Peanut”, the symbol of North Otago schoolboy rugby supremacy, as the main aim for the school.

He wants St Kevin’s to push hard for a place in the top six of the revamped schools competition, and to reach the final of the South Island co-ed tournament.

“Those will be the two things we measure our success by.”

– More on First XV rugby in next week’s Oamaru Mail