Southland BHS is the team that the public think are going to be walk overs off this Top 4. Southland BHHS came up last year to represent the the South Island and admittedly were under prepared for what they were coming into. Southland play in an U19 Division and dont usually play 1st XV’s through out the season. This is all they have to best prepare themselves for this type of rugby so I think it’s smart. I also dont think Southland BHS are as bad as they think they are it’s more just people thinking they know what the South Island teams are about when they dont. Southland again are coming for the 2nd time in a row and they have prepared and I think they come up stronger this year round.
I want to talk about this back line first that I think should be recognized for what they can do on the field, I think because over these last two games against top Ranked Otago BHS and Christchurch BHS they have managed to steal two wins away from two really quality sides mostly in the back line. Ben Popes name comes up a lot and he has managed to seal both of those wins with a kick and a try. Ben is a player with range ability on offence being able to play his passing game that gets guys like Darcey More and Josh Mason into the game and settled with some massive running opportunities. Ben also is able to play that role of kicking 1st 5/8 which I personally think they will do this Friday. Im not sure that Southland BHS want to play "Bash" grind it out rugby with Hamilton BHS cause Hamilton will win that and so i think they will play a kicking game setup by crash ball runs, committing the defence to come up forward to the line early and kick in behind the line, not out but just behind the line.
They need to get Josh and Darcey more towards 1st 5/8 on the run so that they can get space and clear fields on the outside for the shut down and attack. Darcey and Josh play a similar game with as both crash ball kind of guys and they do it very well too. Both the boys play it fast, direct and have very good leg drives for those extra meters ahead. Think getting the ball out to Josh in the 2nd half and have him attacking outside will then make roads and lines up the middle of the field for Kaleb Talamahina to come in from Fullback and attack. Kalebs running style is so hard to stop because he’s fast and quick with his foot work and he can also kick and chance then scoop it up. Kalebs running game is very good and he can make running lanes out of nothing but his kicking game also is one to watch out for. Southland have some pace out wide with Don Sipa and Allen Gillies who will both look to get into the game behind Kalebs direction of attack. The back lines defence is ok, it’s going to be very strong in the midfield and so hopefully it holds out Hamilton Boy’s midfield.
Ethan Yeo should be the commander at 9 and so I expect it to be a fast moving game up the middle and spread the forward packs both ways looking to find little dents where they then start to attack. I think because Ben Pope and Kaleb Talamahina swap back and forth from 1st 5/8 to Fullback depending on the situation Ethan Yeo will most likely make a lot of the calls.. Ethan is a pretty good defender too and so that will be a plus for the forwards. I like the front row with Jacob Payne at Hooker and his aggressive nature on the field and he shows a lot of mongrel when it comes to the ruck area. Jacob shows his strength when making tackles some thing I think Southland rely when it comes to defence. Oliver Lee and Riki Kawe-Gauge should be starting and if not Niko Manaena will be in there. The front packs some really good weight and I think can hold themselves up against Hamilton BHS. They will need to really work as a pack and be the bullies on the field. They need to take it straight into the Hamilton Boys forward pack, cause if Hamilton see you back off they will just attack you. Tom Capil should be a solid Lock for them and will have his work cut out for him. He will be targeted a lot in the line outs and I think if he holds his own he’ll get his forward pack into really good position to be dominate. Im not sure how they will do this loose trio because they have Ben Paulin who you can put at Lock or Blind and he’ll rip up. Then you have the likes of Sean Withy and Quinn White who can both fit into the system and they will play their role. They both offer their own strengths like Quinn really tough as a runner with the ball making meters and then you have Sean who is quick and speedy like on defence. Curtis Williams is the key to everything and if he plays to his best he could be the best on the field.I would look to him to take a major role on defence first making sure there is no easy meters, that every ball is contested and then he’ll get his running game on.
Look to see a good strong stand from Southland and dont count them out to easy. They have talented players every year and they do make NZSS as well, so we are not really sure what they will bring when that ball is kicked but I know they bring it at 100%.