Mitchell Hunt will lead the Nelson College first XV in this year's Press Cup rugby competition which begins this weekend. Nelson will travel to Christchurch to take on Lincoln High School in the opening game. Photo: Phillip Rollo.

First XVs ready for Press Cup


Three weeks of local derbies highlight the start of the Press Cup with both Nayland and Nelson College taking on Waimea before each other.
For both teams the game against Waimea is a must-win, although their goals for the rest of the season appear a lot different.
Nelson College coach Bill Liddell says his side must be confident going into the season, despite missing out on a top two spot last season.
“You should always approach the season with a degree of confidence but you shouldn’t be over confident,” he says. Nelson travel to Lincoln High School for round one this Saturday before returning to play Waimea and then Nayland.
Bill says the 2013 squad is more balanced than the one that took the field last year. When asked who would be key players to look out for, Bill listed a number of boys who could make a name for themselves this season but there was no one he praised more than first five-eighth Mitchell Hunt, who will captain the side. “He’s crucial. His rugby nous, his ability to attack space, his ability to find space for his other players and his tackling is just extraordinary,” he says. “Of all my years of coaching I haven’t come across [a player like him]. I’ve been lucky enough to coach Mitchell Drummond as well and these are extraordinary young men.”
Another player Bill expected big things from is Te Puoho Stephens – a winger converted into an openside flanker. Te Puoho made the Condor 7s tournament team last year and it was his performances during that national competition that showcased a new skill-set. “He certainly gets around the paddock and he was pretty impressive for us again on Saturday [during a pre-season game against the second XV]. He’s a big strong athletic boy, he wanted to have a go and we were keen to try him there.”
While both of last year’s finalists will contest the competition’s other conference, there were a number of potential banana skins in the Northern/Southern Section, including Marlborough Boys’ College, Waimea College and Timaru Boys’ High School. “Waimea are well balanced, well drilled and are the best Waimea side I’ve seen for a number of years. Marlborough is another side that will be a step up and both those sides caused us a lot of grief last year. You don’t know who will sneak up on you so you can’t even take Nayland College for granted.”
At the other end of the spectrum, new Nayland College coach Seta Sauira just wanted to install some self confidence into the side that has only won once since joining the expanded competition in 2011. The first and only win came against Waimea College in season one, and Seta says the players are well aware of that result going into Saturday’s game against the Richmond side. “This is a game that we targeted to win and it’s as simple as that,” he says. “We’re very fortunate to have Waimea first up because of what happened in the past. We want to be their bogey team and it’s a blessing to have them first.”
Leading the Nayland College first XV is goal kicking hooker Kendall Hodson while Fijian imports Misaele Tabua and Lote Saulekaleka will return to add some key firepower. Lote will run the show in the playmaker jersey after spending last season in a bunch of positions including fullback, wing and centre.
Seta says he wants to show the public that Nayland is capable of improving in its third season. “Starting from the word go I have told the boys we are going to put in a new chapter of rugby at Nayland College. People are wary of putting the jersey on, fearing they might get a hiding so for me as a coach I want to put that self belief back into Nayland rugby and make sure the boys are confident as a team. They are already starting to believe.”