That high schools tend to lose up to half their squads is almost always a given in a five-year cycle.

What isn't is who will lift the Super 8 Football crown in Hamilton when it kicks off on Monday.

Napier Boys' High School team manager Grant Bundle says his defending champions will need to be a bit more physical than the Hawke's Bay schools' league.

Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers centreback Kaeden Atkins, in his rookie year as NBHS captain, will have his work cut out for a side who play a passing game under coach Marty Akers.

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Bundle reckons it won't be easy defending their crown despite having some older heads in their equation.

He believes hosts Hamilton Boys' High School and Tauranga BHS are likely to dictate the pace, with the latter beating the former 1-0 this week.

Hamilton are the losing finalists and also the defending New Zealand secondary schools champs after winning at Park Island.

"If we get to the crossover stage it'll be an interesting phase where we'll have to play against one of them from pool B."

NBHS are in pool A with Palmerston North BHS, New Plymouth BHS and Hastings Boys' High School (HBHS).

Hamilton, Tauranga, Gisborne BHS and Rotorua BHS are in pool B.

NBHS and HBHS open their campaign with a derby against each other in a 9am kick-off in a tourney that offers two 35-minute halves at six-pitch Gower Park, the home of Melville United FC.

Bundle says NBHS have shown character this winter, coming back from 1-0 down to wallop Scots College (Wellington) 5-1.

"I think we could beat anyone on the day," he says, reflecting on the Fifa World Cup in Russia to endorse that belief.

He suspects Hamilton are probably in a similar position of losing 50 per cent of their players in a five-year peak cycle.

HBHS coach Grant Hastings explains as vice-captain Jack Parker (facing camera) joins the huddle. Photo/Paul Taylor
HBHS coach Grant Hastings explains as vice-captain Jack Parker (facing camera) joins the huddle. Photo/Paul Taylor

HBHS coach Grant Hastings says such tourneys are exciting platforms to assess the development of youngsters.

"They go away on Sunday and come back on Wednesday so they spend some time with each other," says Hastings of his squad of 16, who have been training well.

"We've been disappointing for the past couple of years so, hopefully, we'll improve on our two eighth places in the last two years to finish in the middle of the pack."

HBHS are a predominantly young side with just one Year 13 player, Aidan Robson, who is their captain, but they have retained 50 per cent of last year's players.

HBHS vice-captain Jack Parker says the team has pretty good structure to create strong chances through a passing game.

"Last year wasn't our best season so we've moved on from that experience and we're eager to get back into Super 8," says Parker, who is in his third season with the team.

The Year 12 pupil, who is a striker, says most of them have Super 8 experience so they should do well.

HBHS went down 2-0 to NBHS early this season in the Bay schools competition but Parker says under Hastings' tutelage they have made some strides since.

"Going into the tournament we're wearing the underdogs tag but that's quite good because people won't be expecting much from us, so we should spring some surprises this year," he says.