Southland boys show their skills in under-20 final
Southland's Marty McKenzie, Tuki Raimona and Scott Eade all took to the field in Saturday morning's IRB World Under-20 Championships final in South Africa but could not get the result they were after.
New Zealand had previously won all four world under-20 championships but this year were toppled 22-16 by South Africa in front of an impressive, vocal 33,000-strong crowd in Cape Town.
Auckland wing Milford Keresoma put New Zealand in front with a try midway through the first half, but tries to Vian van der Watt and Jen Serfontein (afterwards named IRB Junior Player of the Year) sealed a home win.
The Southland contingent in the team all got a taste of the big occasion.
Marty McKenzie started at fullback and, as he has shown throughout the tournament, he gave glimpses of the fact that he is very much a player with talent.
He has speed and skill to burn and looks certain to play a big role in the Stags' national provincial championship campaign this season.
Whether it be at fullback, on the wing or even in the midfield, where many see his future sitting, only time will tell where he ends up.
The reality is that the Stags do need to find a role for him somewhere to utilise his attacking abilities.
Scott Eade, who made his Stags debut last season, entered the final against South Africa at halfback when he replaced captain Bryn Hall.
Eade is more commonly known as a first five-eighth, but the national decision-makers have shown a keenness to develop him at halfback as well. Eade seems the obvious contender to wear the Stags No 10 jersey this season but there may be a push to give him time in the No 9 jersey as well to help develop his skills in that area.
Raimona has developed well in recent seasons and deserved his spot in the New Zealand under-20 team for the 2012 World Championships.
He played the last 20 minutes of the final when he came off the bench replacing the massive Ofa Tu'ungafasi when he was sent from the field.
Tu'ungafasi punched South Africa's Paul Willemse after Willemse pulled his hair, and both were shown red cards by referee Greg Garner, of England.
McKenzie, Raimona and Eade will have a mandatory two-week standdown from rugby following the tournament before they rejoin their Southland club teams and also begin preparations with the Stags.
- © Fairfax NZ News