Quest for rugby redemption begins for Otago

Getty Images     09 Jul 2011     Getty Images

Otago finished bottom of the championship last year and has restocked its playing roster during the off-season as its starts the long climb out of the second tier.

Newcomers in the team to play the Stags include locks Daniel Ramsay (Wellington and Southland) and Rob Verbakel (Canterbury), flanker Regan Tamihere (Counties), wing Buxton Popoali'i (Wellington) and centre Ben Atiga (Auckland).

The reserves include prop James McGougan (Bay of Plenty) and utility back Sam Giddens (Hawkes Bay).

The Otago team is almost at full strength although Highlanders and All Black lock Tom Donnelly will start from the bench.

Otago has had two previous warmup games, beating North Otago 78-9 and Tasman 45-19 in Nelson.

Veteran Tony Brown will partner Sean Romans in the inside backs while Kees Meeuws, Jason Macdonald and Halani Aulika will pack down an experienced front row.

Southland has mixed its team and Highlanders Jamie Mackintosh, Jason Rutledge, Josh Bekhuis, Chris King, Brayden Mitchell will start from the bench.

But there is still plenty of experience with Robbie Robinson, Matt Saunders and Glen Horton in the backs and John Hardie, Elliot Dixon and David Hall in the forwards.

Much interest will centre on how former Southland Boys' High School star Scott Eade fares at first five-eighths and how former Australian sevens player James Lew performs at centre.

The teams are:

Otago: Matt Faddes, Joe Hill, Ben Atiga, Glenn Dickson, Buxton Popoali'i, Tony Brown, Sean Romans, Paul Grant, Eben Joubert (captain), Regan Tamihere, Rob Verbakel, Daniel Ramsay, Kees Meeuws, Jason Macdonald, Halani Aulika. Reserves: Liam Coltman, James McGougan, Scott Manson, Tom Donnelly, Adam Hill, Johnny Legg, Jayden Spence, Tony Fenner, Sam Giddens.

Southland: Robbie Robinson, Glen Horton, James Lew, Matt Saunders, Mark Wells, Scot Eade, Scott Cowan, Kaleni Taetuli, John Hardie, Elliot Dixon, Michael Fatialofa, Ben Nally, Nic Barrett, David Hall, Michael Peterson. Reserves: Brayden Mitchell, Chris King, Josh Bekhuis, Alex Taylor, Nick Annear, Marty McKenzie, Tim Cornforth, Jamie Mackintosh, Jason Rutledge, James Wilson.