PRINCESS Street Reserve is the venue for the Bay of Plenty/Poverty Bay Under-16 pre-season match this Saturday. File photo

OPOTIKI is hosting the Bay of Plenty Region Under-16 boys’ rugby squad this Saturday.

The Bay team will face off against the Poverty Bay Under-16 boys in a pre-season game to help players cement their spot on the team.

Coach Aaron Bidois, a former Opotiki resident, said he had pushed for the game to be held here.

“I’m from down that way, we’ve always wanted to bring a game there,” he said.

However, his own ties were not the only reason Bidois had wanted to play in Opotiki.

“We thought bringing a regional game there might help inspire some of the younger kids,” he said.

“It’s an opportunity for kids to see what these players can do, and it might inspire them to train hard or pick up sport, so it’s a win-win.”

Bidois said there were usually always Opotiki teens on the team, but this year there was only a Rotorua Boys High School student with ties to the district, Ngakohu Walker.

“There have always been Opotiki kids on our team, but there’s none this year because of whatever’s happening off the fields, like kids not engaging,” he said.

“There are a lot of talented players in the Bay of Plenty and Eastern Bay.”

With this inspiration in mind, Bidois said they planned to put on a good show on the weekend, with players vying to claim a spot on the finalised squad.

“It’s a chance for the boys to prove themselves,” he said.

“Then we prepare over the next three weeks until we head to Taranaki and stay there for four days.”

In Taranaki, Bidois said the Bay squad would be playing off against other regional teams, vying for selection in the Chiefs Under-17 Boys team.

“We all go to Taranaki in three weeks to play against all of the Chiefs provinces,” said Bidois.

“We pick a Chiefs Under-17s out of that, and it’s sort of the start to their pathway if they’re really serious about getting into the professional rugby arena.”

The Under-16 game will be held this Saturday at Princess Street Reserve with kick-off at 12:30pm.

james.sandbrook@opotikinews.co.nz