Last Word On Rugby is coming to you live out of Christchurch, New Zealand where this morning’s column delivers you a jam-packed rugby weekend. There is the Heartland Championship, Mitre 10 Cup and; the reason LWOS is reporting to you from the South Island, The Rugby Championship match between the All Blacks and South Africa.
Jam-packed is not an over-statement either, as there are 8 matches of note this Super Saturday. That is a full roster by any count, so we advise you to absorb the action, follow your favourite team and be sure to recommend your friends do the same.
There is nothing like enjoying a big match with friends and family over the weekend, and the Test match tonight will draw every rugby fans attention.
“Enjoy a Jam-packed Rugby Weekend”
HEARTLAND CHAMPIONSHIP: Week Four
Six heartland matches will be spread across New Zealand, with all sides becoming accustomed to the demands of the Championship. A crucial stage, not only for the leading teams, but also for the chasing sides who must make up ground now.
Standings: Wanganui 15 | South Canterbury 12 | Buller 11 | King Country 11 | Wairarapa Bush 10 | North Otago 10 | Horowhenua Bush-Kapiti 8 | Mid Canterbury 7 | Poverty Bay 6 | Thames Valley 5 | West Coast 5 | East Coast 3
The standings do not reveal the entire picture. While the defending Meads Cup champion Wanganui team have the perfect points haul, South Canterbury are also unbeaten. Closely followed by Buller, King Country, Wairarapa Bush and North Otago, these teams each with good starts. And a good start will get you part of the way–sides must continue that form over the next few weeks.
Fixtures: Saturday September 17 – Sth Canterbury v Poverty Bay, Timaru | Horo-Kapiti v Mid Canterbury, Levin | Buller v West Coast, Westport | East Coast v North Otago, Ruatoria | King Country v Wanganui, Te Kuiti | Wairarapa Bush v Thames Valley, Masterton
Match of the Round: Buller v West Coast
The rivalry between Buller and West Coast is one of rugby’s most enduring. The first game occurred in 1896. Bragging rights on the coast come via the Rundle Cup, which replaced the Molloy Cup in 1911. It has the longest continuous history and is second only to the Ranfurly Shield as the oldest rugby prize in New Zealand.
This year Buller appear to have the upperhand, but when your regions heritage is on the line ‘anything can happen’. It is the fixture of the year and will see the locals out in force.
MITRE 10 CUP: Week 5
As detailed in the weekly NZ Rugby Grandstand column, the teams contesting the national provincial championship have begun playing midweek matches. Last week it was Auckland and Hawke’s Bay. This week Taranaki and Counties-Manukau have taken up the challenge.
So by Saturday, fans had already seen four quality games, and we’re prepared for two more matches to begin their weekend:
Fixtures: Saturday September 17 – Otago v North Harbour, Dunedin | Manawatu v Canterbury, Palmerston North
Two clashes to enjoy, the 2:35pm match involves one of the most admired sides of 2016, Otago. They have made the so called ‘perfect start’ and will welcome North Harbour to their hothouse. Arguably the best rugby ground in the country, no matter the weather, under the roof at Forsyth-Barr Stadium the rugby will be hot.
And that is what fans enjoy. Fast-paced rugby. Next up in the North Island, Manawatu v Canterbury will be a more challenging task. The visitors are suitably placed at the apex of the competition…as Canterbury are accustomed to. Manawatu are a tough side, lead well by Otere Black (above).
Expect a hard slog for the Turbos, as the Canterbury team goes about their work. And that almost wraps up the Super Saturday, with that match scheduled for 4:35pm to be completed before dinner time.
And that leads to the most critical match of Super Saturday: New Zealand v South Africa
The Rugby Championship Round Four
As previewed this Friday, the biggest challenge of The Rugby Championship (TRC) is coming to you from Christchurch. LWOS value these traditional NZLvRSA battles, so made the journey down to witness it first-hand.
The build-up has been slightly subdued, only due to the perceived poor form of South Africa. While that has been manifested in record odds for the All Blacks–at $1:04 to win–public interest has waned slightly.
While that may have impacted on the South African public’s enthusiasm, the match is still a sell-out. That is both the traditional rugby support in the South Island, and the venue capacity of 38,628.
A limit that is due to the repercussions of the February 2011 earthquakes disabling Jade Stadium.
The ground may have only had a short history, but the victories continue. The New Zealand team hold an astounding record in this city: unbeaten for 18 years. Not since Australia defeated the All Blacks, has a Christchurch crowd witnessed a loss.
In fact, the last side to beat the home team in New Zealand were South Africa–so will it happen again?
To do that, they will need to perform to a high standard. If the visitors can overcome a strong All Blacks start, can be composed and end the match the better, than anything is possible.
Former players like Joel Stransky [a witness to the Springboks training] still feel less than inspired by the current side. He expects much more, but how much ‘is anybodies guess’.
All will be revealed at 7:35pm Saturday
And that will complete our Super Saturday. And yes, there are still two Mitre 10 Cup games to be played Sunday. That will literally overflow the rugby schedule until next week when we do it all again–so sit back, and celebrate another jam-packed rugby weekend in New Zealand.
Watch for the weekly column NZ Rugby Grandstand, out Monday, it is a full breakdown of domestic rugby results and competition standings.
“Main photo credit”