Want to know who the next Beauden Barrett or Kieran Read will be? In his weekly column for the Herald, schoolboy rugby expert Herschel Fruean singles out the best First XV matches of the weekend, and some rising stars to watch. Fruean will travel New Zealand looking for the best talent the country has to offer, preview the big games every Friday, provide a wrap of all the results on Sunday, and rank the top 15 First XV teams (based on their performances throughout the season) every Monday morning.
15. New Plymouth Boys' High School (last week 14)
New Plymouth Boys' will play Thursday this week, travelling down to Palmerston North. New Plymouth just losing is not going to sit well with them and will need to take out all that frustration on Palmy Boys. NPBHS are stacked with talent right now but they need to put it all together and turn that into hard-fought games and wins when the whistle blows. This is going to be another hard week for New Plymouth but they will need to lean on William Guthrie, Tuterangi Anderson, Thomas Edward Murray and captain Rowan Slater to get them going the full 70 minutes.
Next up: Thursday, 12.30pm: v Palmerston North Boys' High School
14. Tauranga Boys' College (unranked)
Great win for Tauranga Boys' over New Plymouth this past Saturday and what that win did for the competition was draw a line down where everyone stands. Tauranga Boys' College have lost some close games this year and even in the preseason, they were just getting picked off when they should have won. They will host Napier Boys' and they will make sure they make everything as hard as possible for them on the day. Tauranga will be dealing with a team that almost knocked off the No.1 team in the country so the confidence is high right now for Napier Boys' and Tauranga Boys' will need to look at bringing them back down.
Next up: Saturday, 12pm: v Napier Boys' High School
13. St Peter's College (13)
St Peter's will travel down to Christchurch and South Island powerhouse St Bede's College. This is not going to be an easy task and we have not seen this matchup before. I like that St Peter's are reaching out to more teams to play and the 1A should do it more. Tangaroa College will be waiting for St Peter's College on Saturday and hope that St Bede's College give them the hardest game so that they can strike them as well on the day. St Peter's are mentally strong and have shown what they can do so we should never count them out.
Next up: Wednesday, 12.40pm: v St Bede's College
12. St Bede's College (12)
St Bede's College are still on a winning path and still looking strong as a team even with Kynan Stowers-Smith out with an injury. They have two tough games, with national champions St Peter's College traveling down from Auckland to play. This is going to be such a massive game of two teams who are ranked 12th and 13th. I will be looking for how each team reacts against each other's style of play and attack because these two teams don't ever play each other but I hope it makes for a great game. Then on Saturday, St Bede's face off with St Thomas', who we know can beat the best teams in the competition and put up massive points as well.
Next up: Wednesday, 12.40pm: v St Peter's College
11. Nelson College (11)
Getting the win on Saturday against Christchurch Boys' High School was big and very meaningful to the team as a whole but also in the rankings. They have Timaru Boys' High School this week and even though Timaru Boys' may not be the same level as CBHS, what we have to look at is the travel aspect. Nelson College just made the long trip down to Christchurch and now have to do it again but further to Timaru and that could weigh down on the players. Nelson have one of the best forwards packs in the country with one of the best players in Anton Segner, their captain. Even with that and the fact that Nelson College is a better team than Timaru Boys', if (and it's a big "IF") Timaru Boys' happen to catch Nelson College on a bad, tired, drained day and Timaru Boys' feel great we could see a costly loss. Nelson need to keep that winning focus and get the job done.
Next up: Saturday, 12pm: v Timaru Boys' High School
10. Sacred Heart College (10)
I give it up to Sacred Heart by how well they played and how much pressure they endured through that game, because there were some moments they really had to dig and fight out of a corner. The Sacred Boys are going to face a King's College team who know how confident this team is going to be and that they will throw everything at Sacred to mess up their new high. Sacred have to turn to their captain Brian Lealiifano, Jackson Rainsford, Peter Neli and Corey Kellow all to keep that fighting spirit going and that winning feeling pumping in them to win this big game.
Next up: Saturday, 2.30pm: v Sacred Heart College
9. Scots College (9)
Scots College are playing the best rugby in the Wellington competition right now and are starting to look like a top 5 team in the country. I think that there is going to be a big score this game against Wellington College. This is a new rival game that has been very lopsided towards Scots College and this year is going to be no different. With all the struggle that Wellington College is going through Scots College is the complete opposite and are gearing up for every game trying to get that score as high as possible. Ethan Webster-Nonu and Roderick Solo have this team on fire.
Next up: Saturday, 2.30pm: v Wellington College
8. Kelston Boys' High School (8)
I thought that the game against St Peter's College was going to be a hard one and it was so tight right through the whole encounter. Every player on that field grew from that game, knowing that no player on that field in both teams never gave up. Kelston Boys are at home again to take on Aorere College who have suffered another loss this season but are up for this challenge. Kelston Boys are not the type to give any game away so this is going to be an exciting one to watch.
Next up: Saturday, 2.30pm: v Aorere College
7. St Kentigern College (7)
This will be the first game back for St Kentigern College with a full team. They will play Liston College at home, putting up the Moascar Cup again after defending it against Mt Albert Grammar School on Saturday. I see St Kentigern College putting up a big score and trying to get combinations to click and get in a rhythm in time for the bigger games to close out the season. This game is going to explosive, physically confronting and full of highlights.
Next up: Saturday, 2.30pm: Liston College
6. Auckland Grammar School (5)
The title of "only unbeaten team" was removed from Auckland Grammar by Sacred Heart on Saturday. Auckland Grammar didn't play bad either, I think it was a match-up player-for-player situation in which Sacred Heart ticked all the right boxes. Playing a team like De La Salle College is perfect for them to come back stronger. They need that physical confrontation from a team that will bring it to them for 70 minutes to test their toughness and willingness to want to bounce back. Getting your first loss is hard in the 1A but it has to be a quick turn around as well and these boys need to respond in a big way.
Next up: Saturday, 2.30pm: De La Salle College
5. King's College (6)
As it always is most Saturdays for the 1A Comp in Auckland, King's College have to play an uplifted Sacred Heart College team. Sacred Heart have just beaten Auckland Grammar School, who beat King's College in their traditional match this year. We know how talented King's College are with Aidan Morgan, Meihana Grindlay, Judda Turahui, Leandro Vakatini and so on, but they will have to show up. I would never look at King's College and think their weak point is their roster because they produce big, talented players. I do want them to show that they can win every big game that is scheduled and maintain that reputation of being a team that is feared.
Next up: Saturday, 2.30pm: v Sacred Heart College
4. Hamilton Boys' High School (4)
It looks like Hamilton Boys' have shaken off the rust and cobwebs of the preseason and are finally ready to show everyone what they can do. They will be up against the No.2 team in the country, Rotorua Boys', and every game they play is a test of whether they can stay mentally and physically strong for the full 70 minutes. Hamilton BHS have Hakaria Richards-Coxheads as their captain - a player who takes a lot of playmaking and responsibility on himself. Noah Hotham and Credence Harrison as 9 and 10 have been attacking strongly with Luka Den Hertog coming in from fullback. They will look to start fast and strong against Rotorua BHS.
Next up: Saturday, 12pm: v Hamilton Boys' High School
3. Otago Boys' High School (3)
Tevita Asi and his team are looking to stay perfect as a team when they play Wakatipu HS away from home. Wakatipu HS are new to the competition so they will be an interesting team to figure out. Expect Otago BHS to give a lot of minutes to their bench players, making sure they get a lot of time and experience at the 1st XV level. Taylor Dale is back at lock and they will want to see how he goes coming back into game fitness.
Next up: Saturday, 12pm: v Wakatipu High School
2. Rotorua Boys' High School (2)
After making the long trip to Gisborne this past week, Rotorua BHS are on the road again but just to Hamilton to meet rivals Hamilton BHS, who will be a very hard team to put away. Rotorua BHS will need everyone available so that they can make a statement to the rest of the country that they can win big games away from home. Zach Ririnui, Bernie Hati, Tuki Simpkins and Manu Paea all need to be at their best.
Next up: Saturday, 12pm: v Hamilton Boys' High School
1. Hastings Boys' High School (1)
Hastings Boys hold onto the No 1 spot again this week but were almost tipped over by Napier Boys on Saturday. The game came right down to the last minute and Hastings Boys kept strong, stayed the course and went over for a try to win the game. They will have a home game against a battered Gisborne Boys High School team who will have to make that trip down the road. Jordan Thompson-Dunn and Connor Wadley will have to bring the boys together for Hastings and make sure they get this win and make it a high-scoring affair.
Next up: Saturday, 12pm: v Gisborne Boys' High School