A strong team performance has paved the way for three of Southland's best touch players to pull on the silver fern singlet later this year.
Kaleb Talamahina, 14, Dominic Ririnui-Sipa, 14, and Amy du Plessis, 14, were all last week named in the New Zealand under-15 mixed touch team after standout performances at the Touch New Zealand Junior Nationals held in Tauranga earlier this month.
They were an integral part of the Southland under-15 mixed team which finished third in a grade that had 13 provinces competing for a gold medal.
The trio will head to the Gold Coast of Australia at the end of August to take on some of Queensland and Australia's best young touch talent.
Touch New Zealand sends away under-15 and under-17 sides to Australia each year to expose their best young talent to Australia's top young players.
Australia is widely viewed as the powerhouse of world touch, a sport that is dominated by the trans-Tasman rivals.
In preparation for their New Zealand debuts the Southerners will need to put in as much hard work off the field as they will on it.
Due to touch being a 'user-pay' sport the three Southlanders will have to each come up with $3500 to get across the Tasman.
Over the three-day tournament the young Southland team won five of their six round-robin games before going down to Otago in a heart-breaking extra time loss in their semifinal.
They brushed off their disappointment to beat Auckland in the playoff for third 3-1.
Talamahina and Ririnui-Sipa led the way in the try scoring stakes scoring 14 and 10 tries each respectively, while du Plessis was strong in all aspects of her game and captained the team well.
The Southland under-17 girls' team also performed credibly throughout the tournament to finish in sixth place in their grade, although they were slightly disappointed not to make the top four after coming close to doing so.
This was the first year Southland had sent a single sex side to the tournament.
Molly Wheeley from the under-15 mixed team, along with Trisha Hopcroft, Taylor Bishop and Alena Saili from the under-17 girls' were also rewarded for good tournaments with inclusion in the Touch New Zealand elite academy.
The academy is selected from the same tournament and picks players who were on the fringe of New Zealand selection and are considered future international players.
- The Southland Times