Rep co-coach bullish


First training gallop a write-off but Spark expects win.



Central Otago rugby coach Simon Spark backs his Queenstown-dominated side to beat South Otago in Milton this Monday despite a disrupted first training run.

Arrowtowner Spark, who co-coached Central to win the 97-year-old Topp Cup the past two years, says it’s “a challenge” to muster players for the one-off sub-union fixture.

By agreement, each side’s allowed just two training runs and Spark says only about half his squad made the first run in Alexandra last week.

Spark blames the poor turnout for the first training gallop on the fact players only received a day’s notice of having been picked.

It’s a reflection of local rugby’s strength that Wakatipu and Arrowtown together provide 13 players in the 29-man squad.

Six Wakatipu players – Todd Schmidt, Damian Petre, Tom Kelly, Bradley Cross, Carrick McLellan and Ben Blakely – are joined by Arrowtown’s Winter brothers Aidan and Reece, Daniel Dodds, Dan Iosefo, Simon Williams, Ryan McMaster and Jason Rapana.

“Generally the South Otago grounds are a wee bit different from what we’re used to but we’ve very confident we can go down there and do the job,” Spark says.

Monday’s match also doubles as a trial for Otago Country, who this year play two third-division teams in the North Island.

Meanwhile, Wakatipu Premiers coach Lindsay Thomas salutes his side’s 17-0 drubbing of Upper Clutha in Queenstown last Saturday as their best performance this season – especially after losing to Upper Clutha in the first round.

Former Highlander and technical adviser Kelvin Middleton adds: “Unfortunately till now we’ve been playing well but very individually, but we’re starting to piece it together as a team.”

Wakatipu had talent to burn in the backline and their only weakness was the lineout – which Middleton says was “a shambles” last Saturday.

He contrasts his side with Arrowtown, who retained their unbeaten record with a 29-5 away win over Matakanui last weekend. “I think Arrowtown are still well and truly ahead of where we are.

“We’ll look forward to playing them again [on June 27] but we’ll have to be on top of our game to give them a runaround,” Middleton says.

Blair Duffy, who capably filled in at No 7 for Wakatipu last Saturday, suggests one of the forwards needs to take a leadership role.

However, it won’t be Duffy – the 35-year-old doesn’t want to risk playing after a serious bout of
concussion turning out for the New Zealand police league team against Australia last November.

Last Saturday’s run was a one-off, he says.

  • There’s no play in the Central Otago competition this weekend.