Highlanders First XV rugby scrapped

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The Highlanders First XV competition is no more.

The competition, which was set up in 2009, has now been disbanded after the Otago Rugby Football Union and Southland Rugby Football Union came to a crossroads about expanding the competition.

With the competition set to increase to 16 teams, it meant the Southland competition would be left with just four teams in its under-18 competition and the Southland union was not happy with that.

Otago Boys’ High School had already decided they were going to compete in the premier colts grade in Dunedin club rugby, while Southland Boys’ High School were ready to pull out.

With the competition being no more, a meeting will be held next Friday to discuss potential options for an Otago-wide competition.

It’s likely that it will include most of the schools from the Otago area that have competed in the competition over recent years.

St Kevin’s College will now not get to face any schools from Southland unless they win the chance to play the qualifier.

Waitaki Boys’ will still get the chance to battle with Southland as their annual interschool will still go ahead but matches against any other Southland schools seem unlikely.

St Kevin’s College First XV coach Justin Fowler said it was disappointing the competition was no more.

“The boys are really disappointed that the competition is no more.”

Fowler said not playing Southland Boys’ High School would be a blow because they were pretty strong every year, but the other schools not so much.

“Southland Boys’ High School were always a good tester but the other schools were a bit weaker so not having to play them isn’t as disappointing.”

Although the competition is set to cut its numbers and two separate competitions to be formed, Fowler doesn’t expect this to impact on the rugby.

“The rugby has increased in standard each year and that focus will just remain on the schools to keep the rugby strong.”

Fowler is uncertain as to how many teams will be in the new competition, exactly when it will start, if there will be a qualifier between the top Southland and Otago school to see who faces the Canterbury school for a spot at Top 4 and whether or not schools will still target imports in the way they have during recent seasons.

Waitaki Boys’ High School coach Ryan Bambry would not comment until after the meeting.

By Brayden Lindsay