This year has been all about development for the North Otago rugby team.
And there would be no better way to show how far the young team has come than a win against South Canterbury in Timaru tomorrow.
It is North Otago’s last fixture of the 2020 season.
Because of the winner-takes-all nature of this year’s season, a win tomorrow would see North Otago bring home the Hanan Shield, Phil Gard Memorial and Placemakers Challenge Cup, after South Canterbury won the reverse fixture last month.
North Otago coach Jason Forrest said his side would have to front up physically and take its chances to win.
“This week is massive,” Forrest said.
“We won’t get too many opportunities from these guys, so when we do, we have to execute.
“If we win, we keep everything for the summer.”
On Saturday, North Otago put on an improved showing against Mid Canterbury at Whitestone Contracting Stadium, despite losing 35-17.
The Old Golds competed well, but a couple of long-range tries to Mid Canterbury in the first half meant the visitors led 17-3 at halftime, and it proved to be a margin North Otago could not claw back.
“We are happy in regards with what we put in front of the guys,” Forrest said.
“The intent was there, it was again just some of the execution.
“At the Heartland level you can’t get away with those lapses at crucial times, and the old bounce of the rugby ball just isn’t going our way.”
This season, 15 players have made their debuts for North Otago.
Forrest said it had built some important depth ahead of North Otago’s Meads Cup defence in 2021.
“Hopefully these guys will be better for it . . . these are guys that want to play for North Otago, which is great,” he said.
Last week, Jake Matthews, Jacob Day and Oliver Kinzett showed they were not out of their depth, while the more experienced Kelepi Funaki and Marcus Balchin got through a power of work.
The starting XV for tomorrow’s clash with South Canterbury is likely to be bolstered by Josh Clark and Junior Fakatoufifita, who were missing last weekend, and Meli Kolinisau has also returned.
The game kicks off at Alpine Energy Stadium at 2.30pm.
North Otago team to play South Canterbury*
Kelepi Funaki, Sam Sturgess, Meli Kolinisau, Josh Clark, Blake Welsh, Toni Taufa, Marcus Balchin, Junior Fakatoufifita, Jake Matthews, Tyler Burgess, Jacob Day, Sam Tatupu, Matt Vocea, Tayne Russell, Lemi Masoe, Jack Kelly, Robbie Richardson, Josh Hayward, Oliver Kinzett, Cameron Rowland, Ben Paton, Tarn Crow.