The Wakatipu rugby team takes a breather this weekend ahead of its season-opening Super 14 curtain-raiser.
No further warm-up games are scheduled before the Premiers take on Upper Clutha on April 10 at the Events
Centre in the prelude to the Highlanders playing the Western Force.
Premiers’ coaches Kelvin Middleton and Tom Bamber named their official 26-man squad at Tuesday night’s training.
Their final selection comes after a tough warm-up match against Edendale, which ended in a 15-all draw last Saturday on Wakatipu’s home turf, the Recreation Ground.
Middleton couldn’t have been happier.
“It was perfect for what we were after – a good hard hitout.”
Middleton says whittling down the squad has been a tough job, with co-coach Bamber selecting 13 backs from 29 contenders.
Meanwhile, Middleton is encouraged by plans of former All Blacks super coach Laurie Mains to return country rugby players to the Otago fold.
Mountain Scene revealed last week that Queenstown-based Mains – recently voted on the Otago Rugby Union board – is alarmed that country rugby isn’t seen to have the status that it should.
Middleton says the push by Mains in “fantastic” but it’s a hard hill to climb.
“I totally agree with Laurie but the focus has to be on selectors and coaches coming to look at the country competition,” he says.
“There’s country guys who, if they were playing in Dunedin, I have no doubt some would be in the Otago team.”
Wakatipu Premiers squad unveiled:
David Pearson, Russell Longthorn, Brent Anderson (props), Tom Gray, Feleki Urlle (hookers), Nick Cournane, Simon Byrne, Ben Macdonald (locks), Ryan Pewhairangi, Cole Pewhairangi, Guy McCone, Ben Blakely, Toi Roberts (flankers), John McDough, Trevor McKeown, Toby Lord (halfbacks), Todd Schmidt, Adam Price (first-fives), Damian Petre (captain), Tom Kelly (centres), Steve Dent, Albert Isola, Andre Broughton, Daz Schwalger (wings), Brad Robertson (fullback).