20 in hunt for perfect seven
New South Canterbury sevens coach Gareth Burgess has cast his net wide to find the right combination to qualify for the New Zealand tournament in Queenstown in the New Year.
Burgess has named a squad of 20, plus loan player Steve Burt, to play in a warm-up tournament in Dunedin this weekend.
The South Canterbury Rugby Union is hosting one of three qualifying events on November 24 and the hosts will have to finish in the top four to go through to Queenstown.
Otago automatically have a spot for hosting the national event meaning Tasman, Canterbury, Southland, North Otago, Mid Canterbury, Buller and South Canterbury will have to fight out the remaining places.
South Canterbury missed out last year after having impressed in 2011, so will be keen to go back.
Backs Sekope Maea, Robbie Mulvena and Tanu Suavine return from last year's team along with forward Kali Latu and would appear to have the inside running.
Ball-carrying forward Sam Vea is likely to nail down a spot so the pressure is on the others to impress.
Maile Iongi, Tevita Taufa and Andrew Scarlett, who finally sees some action after a long recuperation from knee surgery, have previously played for South Canterbury and are likely to return.
Versatile Felise Gaogao could also find a spot.
He is capable of playing in both the forwards and backs while Heartland utility Joeli Kotobalavu could be hard to leave out.
Others looking to impress against Southland, Otago and North Otago this weekend are Nathan Robinson, Tevita Gumatua, Garry Tutunoa, Semisi Paseka, Jarred Mannex, Todd Skevington and Doug Hill.
Schoolboys George Lott, Tyrone Hill, Thomas Shelker and Henry Scott are in the squad but could find it tough to make the final cut, though Lott and Shelker could be in contention if Burgess looks for a backup for halfback Maea.
Each team is also allowed two loan players so it could come down to a choice between Liam Edwards or Otago prop Aki Seiuli.
Seiuli played last year for South Canterbury and was the sevens player of the year, while Edwards' attacking ability would also be a plus after being the Heartland Championship's top try scorer.
South Canterbury rugby manager Cam Kilgour said the squad had been training well.
"This weekend we get a real test of where we are at."
Kilgour said the squad was a mix of youth and experience, with everyone contributing.
"The boys are keen to step up after just missing out last year on going to Queenstown."
Kilgour said Timaru would host one of three qualifying tournaments with the other two in Auckland and Palmerston North.
South Canterbury Squad
Steve Burt (loan), Sam Vea, Maile Iongi (Harlequins), George Lott, Tyrone Hill, Thomas Shelker (TBHS), Kali Latu, Jarred Mannex, Sekope Maea, Tanu Suavine, Tevita Taufa, (Celtic), Felise Gaogao, Doug Hill, Garry Tutunoa (Old Boys), Robbie Mulvena, Henry Scott, (Roncalli), Andrew Scarlett (Mackenzie), Todd Skevington (Pleasant Point), Nathan Robinson (Geraldine), Tevita Gumatua, Joeli Kotobalavu, Semisi Paseka (Temuka).
The Timaru Herald