North Otago will host Thames Valley at Maheno Rugby Club today in a crucial match in the race for the Meads Cup semifinals.
It will be the first time the club has hosted a Heartland match.
Maheno’s captain and Old Golds hooker Hayden Tisdall could not wait to run out on his home ground.
“It’s pretty special getting to play a proper home game for North Otago.
“It’s a familiar ground and I love playing out there so it’s exciting to get to play for North Otago out there.”
Tisdall captained the side in 2022 before handing the reins to Welshman Rory Bartle this season.
The 29-year-old has enjoyed taking a step back and focusing on his own rugby.
“It’s been good personally, just concentrating on having fun and getting out there and doing my own roles.”
The squad trained at Maheno earlier this week and the grounds are in tip-top shape.
Tisdall said they have had an added focus on their defence.
“Defensively we sort of let ourselves down last week and also most of the season as well. We’ve showed glimpses of what we can do but this week we’ve worked a lot on our defence.”
He is one of three Maheno players in the starting XV for the game today alongside Jesse Bowring and Josh Clark.
Clark was unavailable last weekend but slots back in the second row for his 50th first-class game.
His return means loan player Taylor Dale will be on the bench.
There are three changes in the backline as Lucas Ollion has recovered from an ankle injury to return to the No15 jersey which has shifted Matia Qiolevu to centre.
Bowring has slid in one spot to second five as Aleki Morris-Lome has been ruled out for the season with a ruptured bicep.
Junior Ravuvu also comes in the starting lineup for Osea Qamasea who has a slight knee injury.
Josh Phipps is named on the bench for the first time this season alongside Ben Paton and Levi Emery.
Maheno, 2.30pm today
North Otago: Lucas Ollion, Junior Ravuvu, Matia Qiolevu, Jesse Bowring, Mone Samate, Tyron Davies, Tini Feke, Junior Fakatoufifita, Mat Duff, Lucas Casey, Rory Bartle (captain), Josh Clark, Meli Kolinisau, Hayden Tisdall, Kelepi Funaki. Reserves: Samu Babiau, Lisivani Tuifua, Jake Greenslade, Taylor Dale, Kasimila Vaihu, Ben Paton, Josh Phipps, Levi Emery.
Thames Valley: Fletcher Morgan, Ethan Dromgool, Harry Lafituanai, Sam McCahon (co-captain), Coel Kerr, Hendrix Beazley, Leroy Neels, Savelip Ropati, Tayne Tupaea, Cameron Dromgool (co-captain), Mosese Halahuni, Tim Erceg, Mosese Mafi, Liam Gilheany-Black, Brooklin Toia. Reserves: Shontayne Dare, Jahvani Lolesi, Nigel Williams, Richard Rosewarne, Guto Davies, Patrick Faapale, Jake O’Connor, Jay Malielegaoi