Rugby Hamish Kerr Ben Fakataha Combined 1st XV webListening in during the team talk at training this week were Mid Canterbury Combined players Hamish Kerr (left) and Ben Fakataha. Photo Erin TaskerThey’re a relatively new team and they don’t have any big stars, but the players that make up the Mid Canterbury Combined 1st XV are hoping to rattle a few cages this season.

Today, they head into battle in the first round of the Crusaders rugby region’s schoolboy rugby competition – the UC Championship – well aware that they’re in for just that, a battle.

Marlborough Boys’ College will be the Mid Canterbury side’s opposition at the Ashburton College field today, and the home side know starting the competition with a win won’t be easy.

While the Ashburton College and Mt Huttt College combined side has retained the services of just seven players from the 2018 season where Mid Canterbury Combined didn’t win a game, they understand the traditionally strong Marlborough Boys outfit have only lost about three players from last season.

Mid Canterbury Combined is being coached by a partnership this season, of Brent Middleton, Warren Donald and Andrew Morgan, and while they know it’s probably going to be a tough season ahead, they’re excited by the potential of their young side.

Middleton said the players are excited, too.

“They (Marlborough Boys) will be tough but for the kids to get out there and go through the whole haka, and preparation of how they do things in the UC Championship, it’s exciting really,” Middleton said.

“This is some of the fastest rugby, and possibly faster than they will ever face again.”

A dislocated shoulder and a a head knock pre-season means Mid Canterbury Combined’s backline is light on numbers and experience, but they’ve got good numbers in the forwards.

Brynmor Workman will captain the side from halfback in what is his third season in the team.

“Our forwards will be small compared to the opposition, and as a team we haven’t got any superstars, so to go any good they are going to have to play as a team and trust each other,” Middleton said.

Their depth might not be huge, but they’ve got plenty of ability – as they showed in their pre-season win over Waitaki Boys’ High School.

Middleton said the side will be relying heavily on the experience of their seven returning players to lead the way.

“They are only going to get better as the season goes, obviously, and the first game will let us know where we are at,” Middleton said.

Mid Canterbury Combined will begin their UC Championship campaign against Marlborough Boys’ today at the Ashburton College field, with kick-off at midday.

By Erin Tasker © The Ashburton Guardian - 3 May 2019