A pre-season run for the Mid Canterbury Spartans against a Southbridge under 18 team proved a fitness test and early boost as the 2021 secondary school side romped home 60-15.
The side’s season officially begins against Marlborough Boys at home on May 8, but the squad of Ashburton College and Mt Hutt College students have been training since before Christmas.
Shane Enright will coach the first XV again and the hit-out at Dunsandel last Friday will be followed by other pre-season games against St Andrew’s College at Hampstead on April 9 and in a mini-tournament at Oamaru on April 19-21.
He said Friday night’s game was played in four quarters and a good test of fitness.
The next phase of training would concentrate on building teamwork, making the most of individual skills displayed on Friday.
Supporters are already being rallied for Wednesday, June 30, when the Spartans will take on Lincoln High School in a school exchange and Miles Toyota cup game.
The team hopes to have as many people at this home game as possible and that students from both schools will be released to watch.
A curtain raiser between Ashburton College and Mt Hutt College sides has been suggested, and they are hoping to have as many former first XV players as possible at the game.
Crusader Dallas McLeod may even present playing jerseys on the day.
Enright has bought on Bruce Morton to help with the backline and James McLeod with the forwards.
He said the squad had been working on fitness, ball skills and communication in trainings.
“We ended up having a few more boys leaving school than we thought this season with them moving on to fulltime jobs, which was great for them but again making us have to blood new and younger lads.
“But that’s part and parcel of the first XV scene.”
Josh Dunlea, Richie Fuluousa, Caleb Ward and Aiden Bennett have all left for jobs.
Enright said on paper 36 players were pushing for spots.
“We are planning to name a squad of 22 players and eight players in the extended squad who will train with us on a Tuesday but then move to their age grade team on Thursday to train and play on Saturdays.”
He said the Spartans were thankful to their sponsors, which had allowed the side to buy team kit and travel to away games.