Captains taking center stage in battle for school pride

Jack Timu and Caleb Williams will spend most of the afternoon eyeballing each other.

They captain their respective sides from the midfield and will mark each other in today’s Otago Schools Rugby Championship (OSRC) final at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Timu’s team is favored to come out on top. He leads John McGlashan which has won all 11 games in the competition, including two against Southland Boys’ which they play today.

The visiting side has been desperate to claim the underdog tag. But it was fiercely competitive in the two narrow losses to Johnnies and will be extra motivated after what happened in last year’s final.

Southland Boys ‘was denied victory when Otago Boys’ first five Finn Hurley landed a late drop goal to clinch a dramatic 26-24 win.

There are two other finals being staged at the venue. Waitaki Boys’ will play Dunstan in the middle four final of the OSRC at 12.15pm, and in the Colts Cup King’s under-15 and John McGlashan under-16 will battle for glory.

In Oamaru, St Kevin’s will host Otago Boys’ 2nds in the bottom four final of the OSRC, while the Southern Bush Pigs will play Old Boys University Scallywags in a quarterfinal of the under-85 National Club Cup at Bathgate Park at 12.15pm.

There is plenty on but it is a couple of centers who will take center stage in the battle for school pride.

Timu has the pedigree. His father of him, John Timu, played 26 games for the All Blacks from 1988 to 1994 and 101 games for Otago.

His brother, Josh, is a key member of the Otago and Highlanders backline.

But the star of the McGlashan backline is Josh Whaanga. He attracts plenty of defensive attention which creates space for players outside him such as Timu.

One of the topics of discussion this week inside the Johnnies camp has been about coping with the pressure of going into the game unbeaten.

Dunedin premier club side Taieri had a perfect record right up until the final. Leroy Ferguson captained that side and is an McGlashan old boy. He popped back to the school to offer some advice

“He came up to talk to the boys about complacency and all that and knowing where your head’s at,” Timu said.

Williams is also a key player in the Southland Boys’ line up. He is an elusive ball-runner who has played at first five, so he has all the skills. He also remembers only too well what happened in last year’s final.

“I put it down to the brilliance of Finn Hurley,” Williams said.

Despite not being able to beat Johnnies this year, Williams said his side was confident.

They have been quietly working away in the background.

The side is mostly at full strength. The team has had some setbacks in that sphere this season but has adapted.

“We’ve learned to work with it. Next man up type of attitude.”

The winner will go on to play the winner from the Crusaders’ region for a coveted spot in the top four national finals.

Otago Schools final

Forsyth Barr Stadium, 2pm

John McGlashan: Charlie Breen, Sam Cottier, Jack Timu (captain), Josh Whaanga, Stanley McClure, Max Hore, Henry Scott, Phoenix Abbott, Archie McRae, Ben Joseph, Zack Cleaver-Donovan, Mitch Morton, James Paterson, Tom Fowler, Charles Engelbrecht. Reserves: Keegan Ferguson, Jonty Light, Connor Aldrich, Sam Williamns, Billy Dougherty, Liam Barron, Felix Mauger.

Southland Boys’: Rico Muliania, Kiseki Fifita, Caleb Williams (captain), Jerome Buckley-Fa’atoia, Dorian Walker, Mika Muliania, Tom Nicholson, Riley Smith, Gregor Rutledge, Jack Churstain, Hunter Areriti-Burgess, George Smith, Keflar Morrison, Rico Fisher, JJ Fisher. Reserves: Hoani Nikora- Balloch, Thomas Jennings, Adam Stevens, Josh Evans, Noah Sutton, Ritchie Kuresa, Jakob Broomfield, Fraser Wilson, Taine Withy, Thomas Spain.

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