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Big season ahead . . . Leonard Varu (St Kevin's) on the charge in last year's interschool match. PHOTO: PHIL JANSSEN

After the longest pre-season in recent memory, the Waitaki Boys’ High School and St Kevin’s College first XV rugby teams get their first taste of action this weekend.

The school sides have only one warm-up match before the Otago schools premier rugby competition kicks off on June 20. It will run until September.

With the 12-team competition split into two pools of six, both Oamaru sides will start in the bottom half.

The much anticipated annual first XV clash between Waitaki Boys’ and St Kevin’s will also be played on July 3, as originally planned.

Both Waitaki Boys’ and St Kevin’s have new head coaches- Jeremiah Shields and Justin Fowler respectively.

WAITAKI BOYS’ HIGH SCHOOL

Waitaki Boys’ High School first XV head coach Jeremiah Shields is happy his side is the underdog this year.

With only four players returning from last year’s team, it is somewhat of a rebuilding year, Shields said.

“[But] I think we’ll turn some heads,” he said.

The team had been training for the past three weeks, he said.

“It’s been a pretty disruptive start to the season . . . we have had to jam pack a lot of stuff in to a short amount of time,” he said.

“It’s just been trying to prepare the best as we can under the circumstances.

“The fitness levels are all right; obviously motivation levels weren’t great, but I’m happy with where they are at now.”

Shields was reluctant to single out any player out as one to watch.

“We are trying to build a team that works together, not [that] relies on individuals.

“I’d like to think we will use our forwards a bit to earn the right to go wide.

“We have got some fairly handy backs.”

Waitaki Boys’ plays its only pre-season game against John McGlashan College in Waikouaiti tomorrow, followed by the first competition game against the Combined Co-Eds XV in Oamaru the following week.

ST KEVIN’S COLLEGE

The St Kevin’s College first XV wants to build on the solid foundations laid by last year’s young side.

The team had 13 returning players, head coach Justin Fowler confirmed.

“We are looking to play an expansive brand [of rugby]; we have got a bit of pace,” Fowler said.

“Some of our forwards are the best passers in our team, which is exciting, and it gives us a few options as well.”

Front-rower Leonard Varu could be in for a big year, as could loose forward Henry Kay.

Halfback Locky Collins will direct proceedings and year 12 pupil Isaac Clunie will be a key player wherever he fits into the backline.

“We will certainly give as many boys minutes as we can in that first round to get them upskilled,” Fowler said.

“It’s good to have a bit of experience and quite a few of our boys are smart rugby players, which is handy.

“Certainly since we have been training the last few weeks the players have been fully motivated, and just keen to play.”

St Kevin’s hosts tradition rival Roncalli College tomorrow at 1pm, before kicking off the competition proper against Wakatipu High School at home the following week.