Defence and cunning key to qualification

The South Canterbury sevens side have a simple equation to qualify for the New Zealand tournament in Queenstown in the new year.

They must beat neighbours North Otago and Mid Canterbury today or upset one of the bigger sides, like Southland, who they face first up.

With Otago already guaranteed a place the six other teams turning up in Timaru will be fighting out the four qualifying spots available for the national tournament.

South Canterbury had a heart-breaking last minute loss to North Otago last year after looking in control of the game, and missed out.

The side will need to play clever rugby as they won't have the size or speed of most of the opposition sides they face and good defence will need to be a key.

Only three of last year's side, Kali Latu, Sekope Maea and Roncalli's Robbie Mulvena, return.

Coach Gareth Burgess also had to name one of his squad the 13th man, so Timaru Boys' High School halfback Tom Shelker misses out to Temuka wing Tevita Gumatua.

Shelker's First XV understudy George Lott has made the 12 along with utility back Tyrone Hill in the youthful squad.

Speedster Maile I'Ongi will be hoping to see plenty of ball while captain Nathan Robinson has plenty of sevens experience including for the Cook Islands.

He will spend time in both the forwards and backs, as will Steve Burt, who is the side's only loan player.

The balance of the side includes the hard-running Felise Gaogao and loose forward Doug Hill, while midfielder Suavine is likely to spend time in both the forwards and backs.

SEVENS SCHEDULE 12.20pm SC v Southland 2.00pm SC v North Otago 3.40pm SC v Tasman 4.30pm Semifinals start 7.00pm Final 7.35pm Tofa Shield presentation

SOUTH CANTERBURY South Canterbury: Steve Burt (loan), Maile I'Ongi (Harlequins), George Lott, Tyrone Hill (TBHS), Kali Latu, Sekope Maea, Tanu Suavine (Celtic), Felise Gaogao, Doug Hill, (Old Boys), Robbie Mulvena (Roncalli), Nathan Robinson (Geraldine), Tevita Gumatua (Temuka); Tom Shelker (13th man).

The Timaru Herald