Promising Hastings Boys' High School 1st XV rugby fullback Eldius Oli is relishing following a sporting path taken by his late brother Komiti.
The year 11 student, who is the youngest of 12 children, knows he will be one-up on his brother if he can help HBHS retain their title when they take on Napier Boys' High School in the Hurricanes final at McLean Park today. Komiti, who died in 2012 when he was a 1st XV player, never played in a National Top Four side.
Oli, who was a Hastings West and Hawke's Bay Ross Shield player in 2014 and a Hawke's Bay under-14 rep in 2015, has made the most of his opportunities since deputising for second-year 1st XV player Gideon Kautai who has been unavailable with concussion issues. Although Kautai is available today HBHS coach Tafai Ioasa has opted for Oli again with Kautai named on the subs bench.
"I just try and give my best whenever given the opportunity," Oli said.
That he does. With his elusive runs, gutsy defence and safe hands under the high ball Oli can easily be compared with former HBHS fullback and current Magpies squad member Danny Toala at the same age.
He was quick to reply when quizzed on the keys to a Hastings win today.
"Staying relaxed, sticking to our skillsets and keeping our communication up."
He said it is too early to decide what he will do when he leaves school but he is looking forward to two more seasons in the 1st XV.
"With all my brothers and sisters I won't be short of advice. They help me try and stay humble," Oli added.
In-form Hastings Boys' High School prop Zac Southwick will miss the match with a dislocated shoulder. Fellow prop Corban Kireka is also unavailable as he serves the final game of a three-match suspension.
Napier also boast a year 11 player with plenty of potential in winger Jayden Stok. He played for the title-winning Napier Ross Shield team in 2015 and the then centre won the Taupo Trophy for the player of the tournament.
"I prefer the midfield but I'm a bit small for that role this season. Hopefully I can return there next year or the year after in our 1st XV. In the meantime I'm enjoying the left wing," Stok said.
A former Hawke's Bay Ross Shield, under-14 and under-16 rep, Stok, agreed his team couldn't be overly confident about repeating their 27-7 victory against HBHS when they last met in a June Super 8 clash.
"In these games it comes down to what happens on the day. We've had a couple of good trainings. We know we have to fight hard and be ruthless on and off the ball. Our defensive line speed has to be accurate too so we can stop the ball from getting to their outside backs."
Stok marked one of Hastings two Fijian wingers, Joeli Rauca, in June and managed to restrict his freedom. He will have to repeat that effort today if Napier are going to stop Hastings from winning a third consecutive title and qualifying for a third consecutive National Top Four title.
While he has hopes of being a professional player in the future and playing for the Magpies as well as a Super franchise and the All Blacks Stok knows the importance of having a back up plan and said he would be happy to join the Army and learn a trade if those plans don't work out.
NBHS played at National Top 4 level in 2009, 2011 and 2012 and coach Brendon Ratcliffe said if his troops do the simple things hard, together and to their potential they will qualify again today. Winger Jack Sheriden is unavailable with an Achilles heel injury and has been replaced by Caleb Turner who returns from a hamstring injury.
Regular starting halfback in recent weeks Treyah Kingi-Taukamau has been crook this week and has been replaced by Angus Kilmister.
"There's been great competition between Angus and Treyah all season. They have shared the load so it doesn't matter who starts out of those two," Ratcliffe said.
Along with Sheriden, substitute lock Oskar Lynch and substitute outside back Harry Devine are unavailable with injuries. Pereiha Hubbard returns from injury to replace Devine on the pine and loosie Austin Soanai replaces Lynch.
Teams for the noon clash:
Hastings Boys' High School: Eldius Oli, Joeli Rauca, Andrew Hayward, Jordan Thompson-Dunn, Michael Naitokani, Latrell Ah Kiong, Charlie Varcoe, Liam Udy-Johns (captain), Connor Wadley, Donovan Mataira, Julian Goerke, Emil Crichton, Matt Wilson, Damarus Hokianga, Tini Nu'u. Substitutes: Jacob Dorward, Alfred Tuliaupupu, Sam Taylor, Ngiyaani Waters, Daemon Brough, Shamara Brooks, Gideon Kautai.
Napier Boys' High School: Max Anderson, Caleb Turner, Leo Thompson, Keegan Christian-Goss, Jayden Stok, Henry Williams, Angus Kilmister, Luke Russell, Sam Henderson, Josh Gimblett, Frank Lochore, Tiaki Fabish, Patrick Teddy, Tyrone Thompson (captain), Jayden Walker. Substitutes: Hayden Davis, Manaaki Aranui, Austin Soanai, Rob Slabbekoorn, Treyah Kingi-Taukamau, Pereiha Hubbard, Qunta Tawhai.