One of the lesser known national schools rugby sides gets its moment in the sun next month.
The New Zealand Barbarians Area Schools squad has been named to face Waikato's Harlequins Under 18 in their annual clash on August 29 at Waikato Stadium. The Area Schools are chosen from the top players in some of the smaller, often rural areas of New Zealand, who do not get the chance to play in the top, higher profile First XV competitions.
This side was chosen out for a national tournament earlier this month in Whanganui, won by Central Area Schools. It is fitting, therefore, that there are 10 players chosen out of the central region, including no less than five from the East Coast. There are plenty of hidden gems in this group. Ones to watch are hooker Raniera Whakatata, wing James Williams, who has already been to a Chiefs Under 18 camp, halfback Jordan Wallden, who has represented Counties Manukau at age grade level, utility back Rayven Son Betham Ngapo, and speedy wing 'Bruno' Vitata, who is of Papua New Guinea background.
Six are returning from the 2014 side, keen to reverse the 68-0 drubbing at the hands of a slick Harlequins. But the Area Schools did win the fixture 12-6 in 2013, their first win in several seasons. They will have five days together, so the challenge is gelling them swiftly. There will be a hit-out, against an as yet unnamed opponent, on August 26.
The side will again be coached by former Southland loose forward and current Northcote premier club coach Bob Telfer, and managed by former Thames Valley and Northland prop Mike Smith.
"There are some big, athletic boys there," said Smith. "We certainly want to improve that result from last year, so they'll be all guns blazing for that."
The Barbarians club sponsor the team, having succeeded the NZ Rugby Foundation in 2013.
NZ Barbarians Area Schools squad: Cyrus Broughton (Taipa Area School, Northland), Ilai Arona (Abundant Christian Life School, Northland), Jordan Wallden (Onewhero Area School, Counties Manukau), Reiki Ruawai (Raglan Area School, Waikato), Rayven Son Betham Ngapo (Manaia Area School, Thames Valley), Rhys Middleton (Whangamata Area School, Thames Valley), Jayden Tegg, Stormi Jones (both Mercury Bay Area School, Thames Valley), Teina Kirikiri, Fabyan Kahaki (both Ngata Memorial College, East Coast), Charles Ngamoki, Manaia Nyman (both Te Whanau Apanui, East Coast), Raniera Whakataka (Uawa/Tolaga Bay Area School, East Coast), Roera Hartley, James Williams (both Tongariro Area School, King Country), Eliuda 'Bruno' Vitata, Anthony Hansen (both Taihape Area School, Wanganui), Jachai Graham (Patea Area School, Taranaki), Jonathan Nikolaison (Cheviot Area School, Canterbury), Marcus White (Hurunui Area School, Canterbury), Jonty McKinnel (Roxburgh Area School, Otago)