Young sevens squad chosen
South Canterbury sevens coaches Gareth Burgess and Pene Latu have taken a punt on youth in their bid to qualify for the New Zealand tournament in Queenstown in the New Year.
Four schoolboys have made the final squad of 13, while niggling injuries have taken out some of the big men for this Saturday's South Island qualifying tournament in Timaru.
Timaru Boys' High School halfbacks George Lott and Tom Shelker are joined by utility back Tyrone Hill in the youthful squad.
Lott didn't see much action in the First XV as Shelker was first choice, while Hill struggled to hold a regular spot but was used across the backline.
The trio have, however, impressed Burgess and Latu with their skills, fitness and attitude to sevens but it will a big test against sides likely to boast ITM Cup players.
The fourth schoolboy is Roncalli centre Robbie Mulvena, who played very well in the sevens side last year.
Joining them in the backs is playmaking halfback Sekope Maea and speedsters Maile I'Ongi and Tevita Gumatua.
Nathan Robinson will captain the side and will spend time in both the forwards and backs, as will Steve Burt, who is the side's only loan player.
South Canterbury Heartland player of the year Liam Edwards has been selected in his home province, Otago, otherwise he would have been a shoo-in for the second loan player spot.
The coaches have opted to use only one loan player in Timaru but should they qualify for the finals in Queenstown can still elect to use a second one as there are no rules around which players can attend after qualifying a side.
Often the bigger unions make several changes between the qualifying tournament and the finals.
The forwards include the hard-running Felise Gaogao, Heartland loose forward Kali Latu and Doug Hill, while midfielder Tanu Suavine will also be drafted into the forwards.
Powerful forward Sam Vea wasn't considered as he has a broken arm, Andrew Scarlett has a knee injury while Tevita Taufa was short of fitness after missing the regular season.
Manager Cam Kilgour said the coaches were happy with the squad.
"The schoolboys have impressed with their efforts so far and Burgee (Burgess) was keen to look towards local players first."
Kilgour admitted they might lack the size of some other sides but he backed the skills of the players to get them home.
Five teams qualify to go through to Queenstown but Otago already have one spot as hosts of the national tournament.
Canterbury seem assured of a spot, as do Tasman, leaving two spots for four teams.
South Canterbury face Southland first-up and Kilgour hopes to start the tournament with an upset.
Either way, they will need to beat North Otago in their second game, while their final pool game is against Tasman.
Surprisingly, Lochore Cup winners Buller have decided not to take part, while Mid-Canterbury round out the seven teams in Timaru.
There will also be a women's national tournament for the first time, with Canterbury, Southland, Tasman and Otago vying for the two spots available in Queenstown.
Kilgour said South Canterbury looked at getting a side together but with only secondary schoolgirls having a competition, it was not viable to put up a side.
"It was a shame but we weren't willing to see a side in that wasn't competitive."
Kilgour said the province should get some good exposure as the tournament was being shown live on Sky television.
SEVENS PROGRAMME 10:45am Opening Ceremony 11.00am First game 12.20pm SC v Southland 2.00pm SC v North Otago 3.40pm SC v Tasman 4.30pm Semifinals start 7.35pm Tofa Shield presentation
- The Timaru Herald