The Southland Rams looking to step up after promising rugby league season
The Southland Rams are looking to step up after a promising season in 2016, as they head into their opening South Island rugby league competition game against Otago in Dunedin on Saturday.
They have a new setup for the 2017 season including a new coach at the helm, along with a more intense training regime, as they look to take their game to the next level.
Last season the Rams surpassed expectations as they won the South Island competition for the first time under coach Moses Fa'amoe-Ioane and finished second behind Waikato in the national championship.
According to Southland District Rugby League president Jane Ballantyne, new Christchurch-based Southland-born and raised coach Te Iwi Wairau will help to grow the game in Southland by sharing his knowledge with local coaches in the province.
"We're quite excited about it really, not for the Rams as much as for league itself in Southland, and to upskill ourselves," Ballantyne said.
"Moses [Fa'amoe-Ioane] is our best coach in Southland, there's no two ways about that, but having this offer from Te Iwi [Wairau] to come in with these nationals skills, he is also a scout for the Warriors and he has just got so many links and he has also got some junior programmes he works through. We couldn't say no really."
Ballantyne noticed the gulf in class when Southland lost heavily to Waikato in the national championship decider in Invercargill last year.
"Last year when the Rams played it was all good, but when we got up against Waikato we looked like country bumpkins I suppose against them and that is the difference, you could see these guys were built. It was just like a wall to go up against. We did well from where we come from and what we know, but having Te Iwi [Wairau] on board hopefully gives us that next step up."
"He [Wairau] is really well qualified, we are very lucky to have him, he has offered his time for nothing, he is helping league across the board, he is also including all the other coaches we have in Southland, so everyone is involved and gets upskilled at the same time."
The Rams have been training three times a week for six weeks for their upcoming campaign.
"We have lifted our game a bit as far as the Rams are going, they are doing gym training and field training and those sorts of things," Ballantyne said.
"Everyone has a schedule that they do homework for, so it is different for us."
The Rams also have four extra trainers this season with Kris MacLellan and Tyson Huia, along with Southland club coaches Chee Turuwhenua from Cooks and Cowboys player/coach Nathan Anderson involved as Wairau invited all four Southland club coaches to be a part of this year's programme.
The Southland Rams squad will be led by co-captains Dylan Lovett and Shaun Tamariki-Todd in the 2017 season.
They start their South Island campaign against Otago at Kensington Oval in Dunedin on Saturday, followed by home fixtures against West Coast and Aoraki and their fourth game is against the Tasman Titans in Nelson on September 2.
The winning South Island team advances to the national championships starting on September 16.
At a glance
Southland Rams squad: Logoafiafi Peteru, Brennon Sutherland, Carlos Morrison, Hayden Key, Maehe Ratama, Joe Gillies, Josh Tipu, Junior Collins, Josh Gough, Lima Leiataua, Maope Bula, Ramera Chambers, Tuki Hiko, Tane Puki, Tihema Brown, Ned Torday-Smith, Logotaeoao Peteru, Shandley Aupouri, Chezavan Cameron, Silvanus Raimona, Daniel Lowe, Dylan Lovett, Shaun Tamariki-Todd.
Coach: Te Iwi Wairau.
Manager: Alana Lockhorst.
Assistant manager: Petra Kingi.
Trainers: Kris MacLellan, Tyson Huia , Nathan Anderson and Chee Turuwhenua.