Rugby: Star to play for injury-hit Northland

By Cameron Leslie

Rene Ranger has answered the Northland Sevens team's SOS call as the squad's casualty list grows ahead of their Northern Region qualifying tournament in Auckland this weekend.

Northland's depleted squad had caused some headaches in their build-up for this weekend's tournament, Northland must finish in the top six to qualify for January's National Provincial Rugby Sevens Tournament in Queenstown.

"We approached Rene to come to training to help make numbers up as we only had 10 fit players out of 22," said Northland Sevens manager Brad Te Haara. "[and] he has now made himself available for selection."

Te Haara said the tournament was a stepping stone and Northland would not head into the tournament aiming to do the bare minimum to qualify.

"We are not going down there to try and come sixth so we qualify for the nationals, we are going down to win the tournament and knock over all the other teams.

"We know we are not short on guts or work ethic it is going to come down to mental application and trusting the systems," said Te Haara.

"As a coaching staff we will look to see if our systems we have implemented over the past weeks are followed by the players and that they preform their individuals roles well on the day.

"We are about continuously improving as players, coaches and a team. If we can put a better performance out game by game, and tournament by tournament, the results will take care of themselves."

Te Haara said the addition of Dan Pryor [returning from injury], William Whetton [returning from the New Zealand Sevens camp] and Rene Ranger has increased an already positive and exciting feeling within the team.

"We have 6 current or former ITM cup players in the team and we want that kind of experience to rub off on the other players." Te Haara thought the likes of Josh Brown, a 17-year-old from Kamo who gained a scholarship to Rotorua Boys' High School, would be a player to watch this weekend.

"Whilst all our players are a threat with ball in hand ... he has amazing footwork and great vision for a young player and what was evident at training on Tuesday is that has game lifted being outside Rene Ranger in the internal game played," Te Haara said.

"For a 17-year-old to play in combination with a Super 15 player it must be an exciting time in his rugby career, in saying that Rene was just as excited by the talent coming through after spending a week with the team."

Northland play Waikato first up on Saturday, followed by North Harbour and the Auckland Barbarians.

Northland Men's Sevens team: Reuben Wright, Dan Pryor, William Whetton, Troy Woodman, Tane Takulua, Tyler Lansdowne, Warren Dunn, Tyler Edwards, Kadin Te Nana, Ben Berridge, Rene Ranger, Josh Brown.

Northland Women's Sevens team: Timara Leaf, Claudia McMeekin, Ashley Dye, Alisha Proctor, Raynen Reihana, Christina Cameron, Tea Smith, Eden Cherrington, Doana Finau, Luisa Finau, Makatu'u Livai, Danielle Nicholson.

- Northern Advocate

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