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Five players to watch: Otago

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Thursday, July 26, 2018    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Check out five players who will be pivotal if they are to force their way into the Premiership for the first time.

VILIMONI KOROI
Although diminutive in size, Vilimoni Koroi has the ability to damage opposition defensive lines with his electric speed and jinking footwork. The 20-year-old outside back has made a name for himself as a star on the sevens stage but could be set for a breakout season in fifteens with Otago. His potential was clear to see for the New Zealand Under 20s at the World Championships earlier this year. Playing at fullback in the semifinal against Australia, Koroi sparked a brilliant try from deep in New Zealand’s half to help secure victory in the tense clash. 

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AKI SEIULI
Although still young by front row standards at 25-years-old, Seiuli is seasoned veteran for Otago having debuted back in 2012. In Super Rugby, the 118kg powerhouse has been one of the Highlanders most consistent performers this year and is set for a big season with the Razorbacks. The Timaru Boys High School product plays with plenty of passion and is a fan favourite under the roof at Forsyth-Barr Stadium. Together with Donald Brighouse, Sam Anderson-Heather, Sekonia Pole and Liam Coltman, Seiuli will for the nucleus of a powerful front row. 

LIAM COLTMAN
Liam Coltman has built a reputation as one of the most consistent front-rowers in the country over recent years. For the Highlanders, Coltman splits the hooker role with Ash Dixon and will be looking forward to racking up more minutes during the Mitre 10 Cup for Otago. The 28-year-old’s form was so strong during Super Rugby that he forced his way into the All Blacks side for the final Test against France in June. While his set piece play is strong and work rate always high, Coltman’s influence as a leader will be just as vital for the young Otago pack.

SIO TOMKINSON
Explosive with ball in hand and devastating on defence, mid-fielder Sio Tomkinson is the type of player that can change the course of a game in one play. The talented 22-year-old debuted for Otago as a teenager way back in 2015 and has spent the last two seasons in the Highlanders squad learning from experienced mid-fielders Matt Faddes, Malakai Fekitoa and Rob Thompson. People in Dunedin have long known about Tomkinson’s potential and 2018 could be the year he truly announces himself on the national stage. 

MATT FADDES
With deceptive pace and slick distribution skills, Faddes has been one of the leading mid-fielders in the Mitre 10 Cup over recent seasons. Despite not being the biggest midfielder in the country, Faddes has an uncanny ability to break tackles and find his outside man. At 26-years-old, Faddes is one of the veterans in Otago’s backline and will provide crucial leadership and guidance to promising youngsters Vilimoni Koroi and Sio Tomkinson.