Jake Russ was keen to begin 2018 by settling some old scores.
Russ was the starting openside flanker in the Hamilton Boys’ High School First XV which lost the National Top Four Rugby final to Hastings Boys’ High School in September 2017.
Last week the Hamilton First XI faced Hastings in the first game of the Super 8 cricket tournament. Russ made 100.
“I was pretty lucky to be honest. I was dropped early in my innings and struggled to score freely for a while because the ball was nipping about. When I decided to play more expansively things started happening,” Russ recalls.
Unfortunately, the match was abandoned at the halfway point due to a storm. However, Hamilton posted 279 and the century by Russ was the catalyst for greater things to follow.
Hamilton convincingly beat Napier Boys’ High School and then extracted revenge upon Tauranga Boys’ College, who eliminated Hamilton from Secondary School Boys' First XI Cup Finals contention last year. Russ captures the action against the Northern Districts champions.
“Tauranga won the toss and put us into the field. We managed to bowl them out for 145, but had a niggly period before lunch where we had to survive half an hour. We lost two wickets before Jacob Parker and Jake Ottow guided us to victory.”
Parker made 98 not out and was singled out for special praise by Russ.
“Jacob opens the batting and bowling. He's only year 11 and has a big future,” Russ acclaimed.
Hamilton has won the Super 8 cricket title ten times.
Russ is the only student at Hamilton in the First XV rugby and First XI cricket sides. He has grown from 72kg to 91kg in 12 months. A strict diet and strong bond with his teammates has driven Russ to greater heights.
“I enjoy the camaraderie of the rugby boys,” Russ explains. “We get on really well and build a strong bond.”
“We have about 10 returning players this season. Most of them are in the forwards so we will look to dominate teams in that area before utilising our speed out wide.”
What does Hamilton’s First XV have to do to become National champions? What has to change from the Top Four final last year?
“I don't think we could've played any better. Hastings was a very good team. There was nothing in it,” Russ asserts.
Russ was a member of the Hamilton side that won the Condor 7s in December. Hamilton beat Scots College, Wellington in the final to win the crown for the third year on the trot.
Jake’s mother is a school teacher and his father runs a retirement village. Jake is uncertain which sport he will pursue next year. However he has made the choice harder for himself already.
2017 Auckland Premier 1A champion and Top 4 semi-finalist Saint Kenitgern College have propelled one of their own to national honours, with fullback Etene Nanai selected in the All Black Sevens for this weekend’s World Rugby Sydney Sevens.
Nanai joins the All Black Sevens team for Sydney for his first time in a senior national team. He has previously represented the New Zealand Secondary Schools team, beating Australia and Tonga in October.
All Blacks Sevens coach Clarke Laidlaw says this of Nanai "Etene is a young player with huge potential, and he is enjoying his rugby. It's exciting for him and his family to get this opportunity in Sydney.”
The team arrived in Sydney on Sunday to begin preparation for the tournament.
"We face a big challenge in Russia, Samoa and Fiji in pool stages, so this week has been about making sure our preparation is right heading into Friday," said Laidlaw.
Former Mount Albert Grammar School co-captain Caleb Clarke has been named as the 13th man and will be brought into the playing 12 if required as injury cover.
The team is (*indicates debut):
1. Scott Curry
2. Tim Mikkelson
3. Teddy Stanaway
4. Joe Ravouvou
5. Luke Masirewa
6. Vilimoni Koroi
7. Sam Dickson
8. Andrew Knewstubb
9. Regan Ware
10. Kurt Baker
11. Etene Nanai-Seturo*
12. Sione Molia
13. Caleb Clarke*
Friday 26 January
9.50pm NZT v Russia
Saturday 27 January
6.31pm NZT v Samoa
9.42pm NZT v Fiji
Sunday 28 January – Finals Day
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, 1-2 December, Dubai – RUNNERS UP
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, 9-10 December, Cape Town - WINNERS
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, 26-28 January, Sydney
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, 3-4 February, Hamilton
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, 2-4 March, Las Vegas
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, 10-11 March, Vancouver
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, 6-8 April, Hong Kong
Commonwealth Games, 13-15 April, Gold Coast
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, 28-29 April, Singapore
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, 2-3 June, London
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, 8-10 June, Paris
Rugby World Cup Sevens, 20-22 July, San Francisco
Young Auckland player Caleb Clarke, son of former All Black Eroni, has been selected in the All Blacks Sevens side for the HSBC Sydney Sevens, to be held next weekend
Clarke co-captained the Mount Albert Grammar School side that won the National Top 4 in 2016. He has been recently been training with the Blues. He joins 2016 Feilding High Schoo fullback Vilimoni Koroi in the side, while 2016 Southland Girls' High School star Alena Saili has been selected in the equivalent women's side. Koroi and Saili have previously worn the black jersey.
Read our profile with Caleb Clarke from 2016 here
The squad is (* indicates new caps):
Kurt Baker (Manawatu)
Caleb Clarke (Auckland)*
Scott Curry (Bay of Plenty)
Sam Dickson (Canterbury)
Andrew Knewstubb (Tasman)
Vilimoni Koroi (Otago)
Luke Masirewa (Bay of Plenty)
Tim Mikkelson (Waikato)
Sione Molia (Counties Manukau)
Joe Ravouvou (Auckland)
Teddy Stanaway (Bay of Plenty)
Regan Ware (Bay of Plenty)
Joe Webber (Bay of Plenty)
Coach Clarke Laidlaw said the squad returned from the summer break in fantastic condition.
“We had 15 out of 17 players record Personal Bests in the fitness testing which seems ridiculous after a few weeks away. But the break was good because we’d had a lot happening since we centralised, so the players time away and they have returned really refreshed.”
The only changes from the Cape Town tournament see Clarke and Masirewa replace the injured Trael Joass and Dylan Collier.
“It’s an opportunity for these players and it is the start of us building depth in our squad. We are happy with the group of players we have got so giving them time out on the field is important,” said Laidlaw.
Clarke joins the All Blacks Sevens environment from Investec Super Rugby pre-season training with the Blues.
“We’ve worked closely with the Blues to have Caleb released to train with us and he is part of our plan to build depth heading into the Commonwealth Games. He’s a big, powerful winger and we are really excited about unleashing him.”
Masirewa joined the squad on Monday after an impressive National Sevens campaign with Bay of Plenty. Laidlaw said it has been a long-term plan getting Masirewa back in the back jersey.
“We’re excited about having Luke back in our environment, he’s been working hard for the past year and has ticked all the boxes we have asked of him. He’s a real point of difference; Luke is an aerial forward that can break the game open.”
The All Blacks Sevens currently sit atop the HSBC Series standings but Laidlaw said there is plenty of room for improvement.
“There were fine lines in the last two tournaments and we could have easily been tipped out and any stage so we are working at getting better in all areas, both on and off the field.”
A tough pool sees the All Blacks Sevens come up against Russia, Samoa and Fiji.
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