Imports Rory Harries and Josh Thomas are enjoying their first Citizens Shield campaign with Athletic Marist after arriving from Wales in February.
Harries, who plies his trade at halfback, made the move from Cardiff RFC. He has represented Wales at under-16 and under-18 levels.
The 19-year-old plans to make the most of his time in Oamaru and hopes to don the gold of North Otago when the Heartland Championship kicks off in August – but is gunning for Citizens Shield glory with Athies first.
“It was amazing, when I knew I was coming over here, I couldn’t wait, I was ecstatic, I want to win the competition with Athies and I’d love to play higher for North Otago,” he said.
Harries said southern hemisphere rugby was more physical but was acclimatising to the style of play.
“I’m enjoying it, it’s a lot more physical and it’s a faster game over here, the collisions and things are a lot more physical,” he said.
“You’ve just got to adapt your game, It’s more eyes-up rugby, it’s more off the cuff.”
Harries is confident his standard has improved over the three matches he’s played for Athies so far this season.
“I want to take the physicality back to Wales and the speed of the game they play over here,” he said.
“I’d love to take that back because that’s how Wales like to play rugby, it’s more off-the-cuff rugby rather than structured, It’ll definitely improve my game leaps and bounds being here,” he said.
Thomas, who played for St Peter’s Rugby Club in Wales, was invited to join Athies through the club’s strong relationship with Llanishen High School in Cardiff.
The hooker said he had adapted quickly to the high-tempo playing style and was eager to improve in New Zealand.
“I thought it was never going to happen but when all the tickets were bought I was so happy, I had a lot of grief back home but now I can just concentrate on my rugby,” he said.
“I want to try my hardest and be as physical as I can.
“Back home it’s not as physical, the forwards aren’t as strong or fast. Over here, everyone you run into, they will tackle you. Back home you’ve got a good chance of putting the opposition on their backside.”
The 18-year-old said improving his fitness has been a priority since his arrival, following a baptism of fire in Athies’ opening match.
“I want to get faster, I want to be able to keep up with play. My first game I was nowhere to be seen,” he said.
“I couldn’t keep up with play but as the games have gone on I’ve been able to get around the park better and I’ve been hitting rucks better. That first game was a shock.”
Thomas said he was intent on proving himself and was relishing the opportunity to end Old Boys’ unbeaten run while maintaining Athies 100% record this Saturday.
“I’m not coming here to make up the numbers, I want to prove a point to myself,” he said.
“There’s not a weak link in any of the teams we’ve played so far, but for us the one game to win would be against Old Boys,” he said.
Old Boys will face Athies at 1pm at the Whitestone Contracting Stadium on Saturday.
By James Ford