Oliver, Hayman set for return

Wednesday, September 21, 2005    NZPA

Otago coach Wayne Graham confirmed both were available for selection.

The game will be long-serving prop Carl Hoeft's final for the province. He is due to take up a contract to play in France.

Graham said Oliver, who injured his left calf on May 7 while playing for the Highlanders against the Crusaders at Carisbrook, was likely to make his return for Otago from the bench.

"We will have a look at how he goes in the next day or two, and then work out who our No 1 hooker is," Graham said.

"He played 80 minutes on the weekend for Otago B and, although it is at a different level it is still valuable game time for him."

Hayman returns from a three-week rest following the All Blacks' campaign and is likely to start.

Hayman, Hoeft and Oliver last played together against the Crusaders at Carisbrook, which ended Oliver's hopes of playing in the DHL NZ Lions Series.

With three rounds of the NPC remaining, Otago sit in fourth place on the points' table. With a log jam at the top of the table, Otago are likely to need to win at least two of their final three games to qualify for the semifinals.

Graham said Hoeft would be missed, but his imminent departure was not being used as extra motivation for the Taranaki match.

"We have not put any emphasis on it. It is about continuing on our campaign and stringing some wins together, because the next three games are very, very important to our season."

All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen was at Otago's training today.