Hastings Boys' High School First XV rugby fullback Danny Toala will tell you he's pretty close with teammates Folau Fakatava, Devan Flanders and Lincoln McClutchie.
"The bond we've developed in school over the last two years is pretty tight. Hopefully we can all make the New Zealand Secondary Schools team this year and then turn out for the Magpies next year," Toala said after the quartet's two-year contracts with the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union were announced yesterday.
"It's not just us ... I reckon a few more of the brothers have got a good chance of making the New Zealand team too," McClutchie said as he pointed to their teammates training in the buildup to their Super 8 final against Hamilton Boys' High School in Hastings on Saturday.
The quartet were among nine HBHS players who turned out for the Hurricanes under-18s in their 25-10 win against their Crusaders counterparts in Wellington last month. All played key roles as HBHS finished second in last year's National Top Four competition. It will be a surprise if Toala, 18, halfback Fakatava, 17, first five-eighth McClutchie, 18, and loosie Flanders, 18, don't get selected for the NZSS team trials.
"Lincoln was a New Zealand Secondary Schools representative in 2016 and he, along with Folau, Devan and Danny, will be strong contenders for higher honours in 2017. We are delighted that they've committed to Hawke's Bay Rugby," HBRU's academy manager, Joe Payton, said.
"It's a great experience for me to be a part of the Magpies for the next two years, it's an unreal feeling and pretty exciting to play with some experienced players that I didn't think I would be playing with," Toala said.
He is still tossing up whether to study at EIT next year or attend police training in Wellington. Toala is happy to play wherever new Magpies back coach and former HBHS 1st XV mentor Mark Ozich wants him to in the Magpies backline.
"It means a lot to me to be signed on to the Magpies for 2018 and 2019. I grew up idolising the Magpies and now I get to be one," Flanders said.
If he doesn't attend university in Wellington next year Flanders will play club rugby for Havelock North. He is looking forward to Saturday's final and the opportunity to help his team retain one of the trophies it won last year.
"This is one of our main goals and it means a lot to the school. I felt like I didn't have a good game when we beat Hamilton last weekend because I took an early knock to the throat. If we stick to our structures and plays this weekend we should have a positive result," Flanders added.
"This is the start of my dream, a new beginning," McClutchie said as he reflected on his Hawke's Bay contract.
"It's pretty good to be staying in the Bay. I'm hoping to score a builder's apprenticeship as well so my future after rugby is sorted."
However, McClutchie stressed Saurday's match is his immediate focus.
"There was a bit of heat when we beat them 20-16 last weekend and the boys dealt with it. There was a little bit of fear when we travelled up there and that is good to have. Hamilton are a great side and we are going to be a bit more confident playing them at home."
Fakatava is also considering taking up a building apprenticeship next year.
"I'm really excited to sign with the Magpies. It means I will be able to help support my family because they all work so hard," he said, referring to his father and two sisters in Tonga and mother and two brothers in Australia.
Fakatava believed the hosts' kicking game will have to be more accurate and the communication improved if they are going to perform better against Hamilton this weekend than they did last weekend.
"Our motivation before the game will have to be better too but playing at home will help that," he added.
Saturday's match will have a 12.10pm kickoff and it will be televised live.