North Otago will welcome Poverty Bay to the Whitestone Contracting Stadium tomorrow in their first Heartland Championship tie of the season in Oamaru.
The Old Golds were beaten 17-9 by Buller in Westport in their first outing of the campaign while Poverty Bay put East Coast to the sword for a comprehensive 52-12 victory.
Poverty Bay have recruited well following a poor season last year with former Highlanders, Crusaders and New Zealand Maori loose forward Jake Paringatai joining the ranks.
Newly appointed assistant coach Rico Gear’s experience seems to have rubbed off on Poverty Bay and his players will be looking to bring their fine form south.
The former All Black said he is expecting a difficult clash tomorrow, that will act as an effective gauge as to the level his team is at.
“The boys are looking forward to getting on the road, this will be a gauge of where we’re really at,” he said.
“We’re expecting a tough battle, North Otago are always a top four team and have strong forwards, they’re traditionally good upfront, so it’ll be tough.”
Gear said he was unsure how Poverty Bay would fair in their opening fixture last weekend after losing out twice in the preseason but was pleased with the performance.
“It was a bit of the unknown, we came off two heavy defeats in the preseason so we didn’t know how we’d go really, but they boys came through unscathed,” he said.
North Otago coach Mike Mullins said he does not expect tomorrow’s visitors to change their game plan following such an impressive display against East Coast but will be looking for an improved approach and performance from the Old Golds.
“We have worked on the things we needed to improve on at Tuesday night’s training, and would be looking for an improvement on this weekend’s performance,” he said.
“Attitude, there was a lack of urgency and poor ball security, which took the pressure of the opposition,” he said.
North Otago Development vs Mid Canterbury Development, Whitestone Contracting Stadium, 1pm.
North Otago vs Poverty Bay, Whitestone Contracting Stadium, 2.30pm.
By JAMES FORD
PHOTO: North Otago coach Mike Mullins