Southland sevens coach's selection headache

Southland sevens coach Elgan O'Donnell has a selection headache on his hands as he looks to whittle down his wider training group to a 12-strong squad for the South Island regional qualifying tournament in Timaru.

O'Donnell took two squads to a tournament in Dunedin on Saturday where he rotated his players in games against Otago and South Canterbury.

"It was a good learning experience for the boys," he said.

"What it's identified is that there will be no easy games at the regional tournament and it's given me a headache.

"I've got what I believe is 20 guys that I could take away to the regionals and I've got to get that down to 12. There are some good players who would have made the side in previous years, but might not make it this year."

The top four teams in Timaru on November 24 will qualify for the national finals in Queenstown in mid-January.

Southland have a number of Rugby Southland-contracted players involved in their new sevens programme, including halfback Tayler Adams, midfielder Keanu Kahukura and Scott Eade.

O'Donnell has been keen to impress on his players the opportunities which are now available to them.

"I'm pretty sure that this regional tournament is televised on Sky, and so are the nationals," he said.

"If you take Marty McKenzie as an example last year - and I know he had the NZ 20s to follow up with - but he really stood out. There's going to be five Super rugby franchise coaches watching that tournament, nine NPC coaches all watching that tournament, as well as Gordon Tietjens and a few other scouts. You can't get a better opportunity to actually put your case forward for higher honours."

O'Donnell has some minor injury concerns looking ahead to Timaru, including Campbell Smith, who picked up an ankle problem in Dunedin, but he's not expecting any of them to be too serious.

The Southland Times