The top Under-18 players in the country have been found, with New Zealand Rugby today announcing the 2021 New Zealand Schools, New Zealand Barbarian Under 18 and New Zealand Māori Under 18 Ngā Whatukura Boys teams.
75 players have been rewarded for their performances and potential in school and club rugby this season, stretching the length of the country.
From Dargaville High School in the north to Southland Boys’ High School in the south, 30 schools and nine clubs are represented with players selected from across 15 provincial unions.
Of these players, 18 are from the Hurricanes regional pool.
Hurricanes Recruitment and Development Manager and Hurricanes convenor Darren Larsen said it was a great honour for all those who had been selected.
“We just really want to congratulate all the selected players from our region. We are really looking forward to working with them,” he said.
"These boys have been identified to step up to the next level. The key is, they’re now on a new pathway in their rugby career. They’ll start to see more opportunity within their province's academy structures.”
Larsen said that while the usual pathway to these teams sees the players come by way of their provincial unions or development camps, this year has been different.
"This year, due to Covid, they’ve had to step right out of school into New Zealand Schools, and they’ve obviously lost the opportunity to play Australia. So, it’s going to be a pretty unique season, but the positives are the boys get to play in a high-performance game.”
While travel restrictions have affected an international schedule that was hoped, all three teams will assemble for a development week and play a game of three halves. The New Zealand Schools and New Zealand Barbarian Under 18s will play the curtain raiser to a Bunnings NPC match in Wellington on 8 October.
A further match for the New Zealand Māori Under 18 team, and the 2021 New Zealand Māori Under 18 Mareikura Girls team will be announced in due course.
The New Zealand Schools team is headed by the Hurricanes’ Chris Gibbes, with Gus Leger (Sacred Heart, Auckland) and Tyler Bleyendaal (Hurricanes) completing the coaching team.
Fresh from leading the Black Ferns Sevens to gold in Tokyo, Allan Bunting will coach the Barbarian team, with assistant coaches Ryan Bambry (King’s High School) and James Hantz (Auckland Grammar).
Kahu Carey (Rangitāne o Wairau, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō) will coach the Under 18 Māori team alongside Simon Kneebone and Ngatai Walker (Ngāti Porou).
The Hurricanes’ Regional NZ Schools selection:
Vernon Bason, Fielding HS, Manawatu
Siale Lauaki, St Patricks College Town, Wellington
Cooper Flanders, Hastings BHS, Hawkes Bay
Jordan Viljoen, Hastings BHS, Hawkes Bay
Chicago Doyle, Kings College (Auckland), Wellington
The Hurricanes’ Regional NZ Barbarians Rugby Club U18 selection:
Tutangiora Mafi, Palmerston North BHS, Manawatu
Hunter Morrison, Te Kawau Rugby Club, Manawatu
Dominic Ropeti, Old Boys University, Wellington
Toby Crosby, St Patricks College Silver Stream, Wellington
Cory Berkett, Napier Boys, Hawkes Bay
Leo Gordon, Palmerston North BHS, Manawatu
Curtis Heaphy, Palmerston North BHS, Manawatu
The Hurricanes’ Regional Māori U18 selection:
Konradd Newlands, Ngāti Kahungunu, Whanganui Collegiate, Whanganui
Malakai Ngatai-Hala, Ngāti Kahungunu, Manukura, Manawatu
Rory Woods, Ngāti Kahu, Wellington RFC, Wellington
Maea Tema-Schmidt, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Scots College, Wellington
Kobe- Joe Vulu, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, St Patricks College, Silver Stream, Wellington