Southland Boys' High School have been South Island First XV champions for the past two seasons and have produced more All Black captains than any other school in New Zealand.
Despite this pedigree, Southland is struggling to find opposition. The geographical isolation of Invercargill is an obvious challenge, but how does captain Sean Withy explain seven of Southland’s first ten games in the Dunedin Premier Colts competition will be away from home?
“I guess it's one of those things we’ve got used to. It's not ideal, but there's no local competition so we just have to wear it,” Withy responds.
Several clubs have refused to travel to Boys’ High, leaving Southland with a five hour return trip most Saturday's. Withy describes the typical routine.
“We usually gather at 8:30am and hit the road by nine. We travel in minivans and mix the groups up to keep things varied. We try and arrive at least 40 minutes before kick off to warm up and then play the game before going home.”
Sometimes an after match happens, but Southland aren't exactly Otago rugby’s best friend.
“It's good rugby for us. It's physical, competitive lasting 80 minutes which gives as an advantage when we play school teams,” Withy observers.
Southland haven't lost to Otago Boys’ High School in the annual traditional fixture for three years. This year the game ended in a 14-14 draw with the openside flanker scoring a try.
"It wasn't spectacular. We built some phases with pick and goes close to their line and when a defender rushed up, I managed to slip through,” Withy recalls.
In 2017, Withy played in Southland’s 13-12 victory over Otago on Land Rover First XV rugby. He described his team as “hard working,” but rues missing some chances in the recent Otago clash.
"It was pretty even as it always is, but I felt we had slightly more possession and territory, leaving some points on the field which was disappointing.”
Withy has been to the Highlanders development camp and hopes to join the likes of Mils Muliana and Paul Henderson as a prominent rugby personality from the college.
The only school with comparable travel demands to Southland is Gisborne Boys’ High School who played their first eight games on the road this year and at least three hours away from the famous Rectory Field. Others like Timaru BHS and Nelson College often travel vast distances to, but in a structured school competition at least get more regular home games.
“We usually find out on Thursday if we're at home or have to travel again. Some of the guys fall asleep, others watch devices or sing and joke. We get by,” Withy concludes.
Napier Boys' High School have continued their commanding from against Hurricanes region opponents, comfortably accounting for Scots College 33-7 in Wellington today.
On a heavy surface in Strathmore, Napier's forwards controlled territory and were never seriously threatened by the hosts, despite a brilliant solo try to wing Ethan Webster-Nonu on halftime.
Down 21-0, Webster-Nonu retrieved a kick from inside his 22 and turned rapidly beating at least four defenders on his way to the line. It was a rare bright spot in a largely forgettable spectacle.
Napier established their lead on the back of good industry by their pack. The likes of Patrick Teddy, Hayden Davis and Josh Gimblett all carried with authority and three tries were created from the 'pick and go' with Davis and halfback Angus Klimister among the first-half scorers.
Scots defended stoutly at the start of the second spell as Napier were twice denied tries, one that awarded and later overruled and another that should have been credited, but was missed.
Eventually Napier broke through when Scots attempting to clear their own goal line fired a wayward pass which was dived on by centre Jack Sheridan.
Napier No.8 Luke Russell had the final say, forwards scoring four of the five tries by the visitors.
After a winless tour to South Africa, Napier have beaten the top four sides from Wellington this year and the 2017 semi-finalists, as well as Wairarapa College 50-10 last Wednesday in their annual traditional.
Napier starts their Super 8 campaign this Saturday with a home fixture against Gisborne Boys' High School before an eagerly anticipated local derby against reigning National Champions, Hastings Boys' High School on June 16.
Scots will seek their third win on the trot in the local competition this Saturday when the hosts winless Hutt International Boys' School.
Napier Boys’ High School win against Hurricanes scores:
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