Whanganui Collegiate 1st XV hooker Ben Strang's outstanding 2019 season has culminated in his first New Zealand jersey.
Strang has been named in the 25-man New Zealand Schools' team under former Hurricanes coach, current Highlanders assistant coach and 29-test All Black Mark Hammett.
A dedicated trainer, Strang is the only player from a Heartland province in the side, which includes seven players from the newly-crowned National Co-Ed champions St Kentigern College, as well as three from Christchurch Boys High.
There are three other players from schools in the 2019 Central North Island competition, where Collegiate finished runnerup to St Paul's Collegiate, while there is one representative from Nelson College, who beat Collegiate in the Quadrangular Tournament final.
New Zealand Schools will play NZ Schools' Barbarians as part of a 'game of three halves' in Palmerston North, before both squads will travel to Hamilton for matches against Fiji Schools and Australia Under 18's.
Across both New Zealand squads, 29 schools are represented.
Hammett commended the programme's talent spotters across the country, noting they had made the job of selecting a squad of just 25 very difficult.
"It's a massive undertaking from the talent identification staff across the country.
"It's a long process and we have been really impressed with the players.
"We are seeing well-run school programmes which means the fundamental skills these players have, are top notch."
Hammett said the team had a mixture of in-form players alongside those who have shown great potential.
"For these players, at this stage of their lives, making this team is the goal.
"Now they have made that, I want to encourage them to think about what they do in the black jersey and how they will represent it.
"We want this group to go away as better players.
"As a team, we will set our goals and the values and behaviours we want as a squad, and if we do that, we should get the results we are after."
Hammett will be joined by assistant coach Sam Rasch (Scots College) and skills coach Kevin Harding (Canterbury).
Strang had previously been chosen for the Hurricanes Age Grade Camp in July, and was then selected for the Hurricanes Under 18s to play the Blues U18s.
A born and raised local product, Strang has come through the Wanganui age grade rugby system and representative teams – starting as a back before becoming a loose forward and then retraining himself as a hooker.
The team is
Cam Church (Saint Kentigern College); Allan Craig (Saint Kentigern College); Vaiolini Ekuasi (St Peter's Cambridge); Zach Gallagher (Christ's College); Dom Gardiner (St Bede's College); Vincent Green (Hamilton Boys' High School); Meihana Grindlay (King's College); Wil Gualter (Lincoln High School); Finau Halafihi (Auckland Grammar School); Max Hughes (Christchurch Boys' High School); Corey Kellow (Sacred Heart College); Jacob Kneepkens (Francis Douglas Memorial College); Ollie Lewis (Christchurch Boys' High School); Ben Lopas (Christchurch Boys' High School); Ruben Love (Palmerston Boys' High School); Aidan Morgan (King's College); Blair Murray (New Plymouth Boys' High School); Manu Paea (Rotorua Boys' High School); Te Rama Reuben (Saint Kentigern College); Anton Segner (Nelson College); Jack Sexton (St Andrew's College); Roderick Solo (Scots College); Ben Strang (Whanganui Collegiate); Tiaan Tauakipulu (Saint Kentigern College); Gideon Wrampling (St Paul's Collegiate).