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International rugby . . . Gore High School head boy Hayden Michaels is gearing up to compete with the Asia Pacific Barbarians team competing at the World Schools Festival of rugby in Pretoria, South Africa next month. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Had Gore High School’s 1st XV not excelled last year, Hayden Michaels would not be heading to South Africa.

The open-side flanker was scouted when he played at the National Secondary Schools Condor Sevens in December.

It was the first time Gore High had competed at the tournament and Hayden will be pleased his team qualified.

He was chosen for the Asia Pacific Barbarians rugby union team and will compete at the World Schools Festival in Pretoria next month.

“I’m pretty stoked. I’ve never been part of a team heading overseas before,” Hayden said.

As far as he knew, he was the only player from the South Island competing at the tournament.

The 18-year-old’s team consisted of 15 players from New Zealand and South African players would join them when they arrived.

The competition had 10 teams from South Africa and 10 team from throughout the world, including Uruguay, Italy, Georgia and Fiji. He said the 18-hour plane journey, playing in higher altitude and not knowing his fellow teammates would be the main challenges.

“I’ll meet everyone in the middle of March .. it will be challenging not knowing [them] but I’m looking forward to playing [against] some of the best in the world, especially those South African boys.”

He was required to complete his own training before the trip and said being part of the Rugby Southland Academy programme was a huge help.

He travelled to Invercargill two to three times a week for academy trainings.

“The academy has come into play a lot, which has been really helpful.”

Alongside the academy, Hayden played for Gore High, Southland under-18, trained with the Southland Men’s Sevens side and played in the Southern Field Days match for the Southland Invitational side.

The World Schools Festival takes place from March 24 to 29.Hayden has received funding from MLT.