South Otago High School presently boasts five players in the Otago Mitre 10 Cup squad: Paul Grant, Tony Ensor, Matt Faddes, Lee Allan and Gavin Stark. Additionally Ensor won a senior club championship with Kaikorai and Faddes was the top try scorer for the Highlanders in 2016.
Josh Hill is the latest South Otago product to make a name for himself nationally. The 1.95m lock has been selected for the New Zealand Secondary Schools training squad that will head into camp on Saturday to prepare for test matches against Fiji and Australia.
"I was helping a mate move house when I got a phone call saying I had been selected. I was surprised and thrilled. South Otago is only a small school, but a lot of hard work goes in and those guys in the NPC have made the most of theiropportunities," Hill says.
Hill made his debut for the First XV in Year 11 against James Hargest High School. Despite a "nervous" display, South Otago won the game and Hill established himself as a regular starter.
Last year was a watershed season for South Otago. They won 15 out of 18 games and made it to the final of the Southern Wide Real Estate First XV Competition. Second-Five Matt Whaanga scored 307 points, including 60 points (10 tries) in a single game against James Hargest High School. Whaanga was selected for the equivalent New Zealand squad.
"We had a lot of experienced boys last year. It helped with the decision making under pressure," Hill recalls.
Despite a high turnover of players in 2016, South Otago fielded a competitive side that was fifth in the Southern Wide competition. Late season injuries, including a fractured rib for Hill, derailed South Otago's semi-final prospects.
"It was a bit frustrating, but injuries are a part of the game. We kept our heads up high and bounced back to win a couple of games," Hill says.
Hill believes standard of the Southern Wide competition has increased and champions John McGlashan defeating Otago Boys' High School is proof.
"John McGlashan always puts out a good side and I think it was great when they beat Otago Boys.' It shows our competition is competitive."
South Otago reached the South Island co-ed final and was tipped over 14-20 by Burnside High School. South Otago was denied a try with the last play of the game.
"It was a really good game played in great spirit. Everybody emptied the tank and that's all you can ask for," Hill says.
Hill is noted for his tireless toil and athleticism. He also covers No.8
Hill's father Alan was an outside back who played for the South Island Maori and Otago B.
Josh is Deputy Head Boy and a Maori Mentor Leader who has gained his NCEA Level 1 and 2 Certificates with a Merit Endorsement. In the summer he competes in athletics and as a junior qualified for the Nationals in shot put and discus. In 2017, Josh intends to head to the University of Otago and study a Bachelor of Commerce.
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