North Otago women’s rugby coach Kilifi Fangupo is reluctant to make any bold early-season predictions for a team that will again be drawn from far and wide.
The North Otago side has its first game in the Dunedin premier club competition against Pirates at Centennial Park on April 29.
Just like last year, there will be plenty of different accents on the field and plenty of combined kilometres clocked up by the keen players.
Two American women and a Portuguese import are already in town, and three Canadian players – who will be based in Twizel – are arriving soon.
Patsy Ford, a prop or lock, and Sydney Provan, who can play halfback or hooker, hail from Denver, and Catarina Antunes is a first five or centre from Lisbon.
Morgan Walker is back for another year, but is having a couple of weeks back in Canada, while a handful of former Oamaru women are going to rejoin the team from Dunedin.
Nia Siale is back after taking a season off to have a baby, Lindsay Havea will add a bit of class to the backline, and winger Cheyenne Cunningham will look to add to her tally of tries from last season.
“It’s a little bit hard to know at this stage but it looks like we’re getting there,” Fangupo said.
“We’re hoping for a balanced team but at the moment we look a bit stronger in the backs. We’ve got some speed out there, and some nice skills.”
Fangupo and co-coach Tai Halalele have moved over from the Old Boys men’s team to coach the women.
The squad spent two consecutive weekends in Dunedin recently.
North Otago played and won two 10-a-side games against Southern in a curtain-raiser to a Dunedin premier men’s game.
A week later, all five women’s sides gathered for a mini-tournament. North Otago beat Pirates 17-12 and Alhambra-Union 20-5, and was beaten 31-0 by University.
The students again look powerful, but North Otago will be right at the head of the chasing pack.