The Wellington First XV Rugby Premiership kicks off tomorrow. St Patrick’s College, Silverstream are the defending champions, but there are nine other contenders and a wealth of talent to be enjoyed in 2018.
Below are 10 players – one from each team – who should go well this year.
Rocco Berry (St Patrick’s College, Silverstream) – Man of the match in his school’s televised 26-14 win over Gisborne BHS last Friday night, Berry is a versatile outside back that has represented the Wellington U16’s and has pedigree being the son of former All Black Marty Berry. Silverstream will be favoured to defend their title with the vast majority of their forward back returning, including WRFU academy members Iona Apineru and Luke Chisholm. However NZ Schools flanker Josh Southall has been ruled out for the season with injury. His likely replacement is brother Mitch Southall who accompanied Berry in the Wellington U16's last year.
Roderick Solo (Scots College) – A standout at the Condor Sevens where his school finished runners-up, Solo made the tournament team. The National secondary schools hurdles champion has speed to burn and will be a lethal finisher from fullback or the wing. Solo will be well supported in a strong Scots team by the likes of Caleb Cavubati, Sage Shaw-Tait, Jaylen Tuapola and Ezekiel Fiso, and year 11 prop Jonty Bird – younger brother of Alex Fidow.
Ish Perkins (Wellington College) – Wherever he lines up in the backline he’ll be a threat to opposing defences with his ability to step off both feet and willingness to try and beat his marker. Likely start at first-five, Perkins will have to be careful not to overplay his hand in a relatively small and young team. Year 11 prop Toby Cook is a promising prospect and openside Ridge Studd is a welcome addition.
Sam Donaldson (St Pat’s Town) - The openside is a robust defender who carries strongly. Sam’s older brother Zac played for Hawke’s Bay last year and his father Glenn coached Town to two Premiership titles. Town will be strongly led by New Zealand U18 Maori rep Keelan Whitman while Tom Walsh is another loose forward to monitor.
Steven Va’a (Rongotai College) – Powerful midfield back who brings experience and leadership, Va’a is in his third year in the First XV and was a member of the group that contested the 2017 Condor Sevens in Auckland. Rheon Paul is another outside back with an abundance of pace who is poised to excite. Rongotai had a poor season in 2017, but contested the semi finals in 2016, twice beating Silverstream on their home ground.
Sam Smith (Wairarapa College) – This year’s captain, the No.8 will look to provide plenty go forward for his side. Maybe the best prospect to come out of the school since Levi Harmon and Bruce Kauika-Petersen, both of whom have achieved representative honours. Wairarapa have made a big impression in Premiership since being admitted three years ago. In 2015 they upset Wellington College. In 2016, Scots College were toppled en route to the semi-finals and last year two wins were achieved.
Jabez Peniata (Porirua College) - The lock forward made the Wellington U16's last year and impressed with his dominance on defence and at the breakdown during the grading games. Porirua made the Hurricanes co-ed final in 2017 narrowly losing to Feilding High School who later finished runners-up nationally. Porirua’s strength was their forward play and another quality performer is Year 13 prop Taua Tonumaipe'a whose bustling carries saw him score five tries in three grading games. (This statement is incorrect since they only played two qualifying games, so ….. whose bustling carries have seen him score five tries in their games so far, including qualifying wins over Hutt Valley HS and Kapiti College.)
Drew Wagg (Kapiti College) – A natural player with great instincts, the openside flanker is only Year 12 and skilled at both the breakdown and as a link player with his backline. Kapiti won four games in the Premiership last year, including an upset victory over Rongotai College. However with no Second XV or U15 side they will be counting on few injures.
Sene Faasoa (St Bernard’s College) – In his second year in the First XV the athletic Year 12 lock/flanker will get around the park and look to spark his team both on attack and defense. Was picked in the Wellington U16 squad last year. Brad Pritchard is another tough and tall forward who clearly expressed some thoughts about his side below.
Joel Cutler (Hutt International Boys’ School) – Another openside flanker, Cutler is HIBS’ Head Boy in 2018. A tenacious player who will contest every breakdown he also has an eye for the gap with ball in hand. Garry Green, HIBS leading try scorer, will provide punch at second five and Louis Calvert is an industrious loose forward who will also line up in the front row at times.
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