At the beginning of this year I thought STAC (St Andrews) would do really well and I even thought that they were close to getting into that Top 4 UC Comp and they were. I knew they would have a strong enough team to play out the whole year because they had a pretty strong year last year and they had so many good players returning back to school. STAC to me are a real grind out kind of team, they havent really been a flair or flash kind of team even a few years ago when they had some real Super Star’s they kept it simple and straight forward. This year is the same and they have players that have to me come out of no where and really stood up and performed and made Rep honors as well.
This team going to Palmy will be a tough forward battled team, they will be based around forward driven scoring options, they will fight for every meter that they gain, they won venture out to much into the back line but the forwards will be running outside of 1st 5/8 a lot because they gain heaps of meters that way. STAC have some real strong runners and guys that work overtime in the trenches that make things happen. Prop Jack Rose came out of no where and is the perfect example of a player that make things happen. He makes meters whenever he carries the ball, he plays the game rough and physical, gets results and he scrums very very well. Jack is one of the go forward guys they have in this team. Jack is also backed up by Kinivuwai Veitata the Fijian No.8 who has really made a name for himself while being in the UC Cup. He brings the team a lot of versatility with his running ability and his style of play. He is a very smart player on both sides and is a very good leader for this team. The Captain though Shilo Klien made the biggest step for me and I wasn’t to convinced with his work rate as a Hooker but now I have changed my mind on it. To me he really didnt look like a Hooker was his position but he had all strength, work rate, drive but something just seemed off with him. This year though and after a few games I saw of him and then his game with the Crusaders U18 proved that he was the real deal and should be in that frame of NZSS. He is also one of those players that leaves the field and you see how much effect he really had on the game. Shilo is going to be a big deal over these two games and the Nation is looking to see what STAC brings. STAC has been a Top 25 team almost all this year and it’s not just Shilo, Jack and Kini leading this team. They have a good group of players like Jacson Edie a very big dude who lives in the gym, Liam McBrean-Smith and James McPherson in Lock position that put in their work and Ben Taylor backing them up fresh from Youth World Rowing Champs. Mitch White big time runner and defencive stopper as well along with Domonic Cornish at Open Side.
Here is the thing with STAC though and how their backs fit into it, they kind of dont even though they have so much talent. They have a forwards based team with talented backs but you dont see plays called for them to really shine, I dont know if Im missing something but that’s what I see anyway. Llew Johnson is a very good 1st 5/8 that can see and judge the opportunity quickly, he can be three types of 1st 5/8 the running one which he is deceptively quick off the spot and can take a hit. The kicking 1st 5/8 that knows how to turn his defencive kicks down field into offencive opportunities. The last a passing 1st 5/8 where he shares the carries around, plays the game at pace, picks and chooses places to attack and the game is flowing. Now not every 1st 5/8 can do all 3 and do them well, Im hoping for the passing 1st 5/8 because they have talent and speed and we should see that come Friday. Halfback Scott Rees should make for a fast game and Llew would need him to be on point too. I like the match up of midfielders Isalei Pouvalu and Henry Bates. Isalei needs to take the ball up more to the defence and really challenge them which will draw that defence, he has to put Henry into those gaps so they can get the winger Gordan Duff and Angus Gilbert into it. Tom Anderson is going to be the keeper of the back field and he’ll be one to watch out for and he’ll be looking for those little gaps in the line where he’ll put his foot down and take them on.
STAC have a hard team up first playing St Peters School and it will be a very hard fought game because I know that STAC will want to prove themselves that they belong with the best in the country.