PETER Skelt has seen a lot of rugby players come and go during his almost three decades in charge of the Southland Boys’ High School first 15.
When Skelt sticks a player at the top of the list – in terms of their ability – it’s hard not to pay closer attention to what he is saying.
As for current Southland Boys’ captain and openside flanker Sean Withy, Skelt was comfortable to do just that.
“He would have to be as good as any other player I’ve seen go through Boys’ High since I’ve been here. That’s just a fact,” Skelt said.
Skelt has been in charge of Southland Boys’ first 15 teams which have featured the likes of John Hardie, Corey Flynn, Clarke Dermody and Mils Muliaina.
It’s a fair compliment he has handed Withy.
It’s Withy’s workrate, calmness under pressure in the big moments and his general skills which make Skelt comfortable to sing his praises.
“He is a high-class player, and a high-class person. He has a presence about him on the rugby field,” Skelt said about the lad from Centre Bush in Central Southland.
Not surprisingly, the 17 year old looms as an important figure for Southland Boys’ as it eyes a Highlanders regional schools final against Otago Boys’ High School in Dunedin on Saturday.
Southland Boys’ beat John McGlashan 42-5 last Saturday to book a spot in the final.
Saturday’s victor will book a spot in the South Island final the following week against the leading school from the Crusaders region.
The winner of that game will progress to the national top four finals. It is something the Invercargill school has managed to do for the past two years.
“Up there [Otago Boys’] always are going to be up for it. It’s the ultimate goal to beat them up there at Littlebourne, so we are fizzed for it,” Withy said.
“They’ve got a big forward pack and big midfield who like to carry, so we’ve just got to negate them.”
Southland Boys’ and Otago Boys’ clashed in Dunedin earlier this year in an interschool fixture which ended in a draw.
Withy’s sporting ability was not restricted to rugby, with the teenager also capturing plenty of attention on the cricket field as an all-rounder.
He was part of the Southland Boys’ first 11 and for the past two seasons was selected to play for Otago at national under-17 tournament.
However, Withy will not be chasing a spot in the Otago under-19 squad for next season’s national tournament.
“I haven’t put my name forward for the under-19s, I’m probably concentrating more on my rugby. But I’ll finish off the year with the Southland Boys’ first 11.
“I’ve got a bung shoulder at the moment, which is my bowling arm, so I’ll just have a look at and see what happens coming into the summer.”