Schoolboy rugby rivals square off
The longest running rivalry in schoolboy rugby will live on this Saturday when two teams meet for the 202nd time.
Auckland Grammar School and Kings College first met on the rugby field in 1896 and nowadays the fixture is one of the most anticipated on the first XV calendar.
This year the two schools are coming together with a gala dinner at Vector Arena the night before the battle for the Cooper-Greenbank Cup.
‘‘This will be the first time there has been a dinner of this nature, it’s there to celebrate a very long established rivalry between two schools,’’ assistant coach and director of rugby Ben Skeen says.
‘‘Undeniably, there is a lot more hype around the game than most within our calendar.’’
More than 1200 guests are expected on the night and they will be treated to audio visual displays throughout the night, guest speakers and comedians from the television show 7 Days will stage a Grammar versus Kings showdown.
Despite the build-up Grammar captain Rob Harris is staying focused and mentally preparing for the game.
‘‘It’s a big role to play and a big honour to be the captain, but I just have to make sure I play my game and keep the team to the structures.
‘‘You can definitely tell the rivalry is there by the crowd that turns up to watch, but you have to treat it like any other game.’’
This year the game will be played at King’s College and a crowd of around 6000 is expected.
Before the match the players will be called out on to the field and there will be two hakas performed by the boarding houses of each school.
‘‘There needs to be a systematic approach, so we honour all the history and soak up the environment because it’s exciting,’’ Skeen says.
‘‘But there is also a moment to pause and think about the job at hand and then go about playing rugby.’’
The Rugby Channel will be broadcasting live from the ground.
‘‘We impress upon the boys that whilst there are cameras and a large crowd, it is still 15 players versus 15 players on the Skeen says.
‘‘Clearly there will be a game plan and it will be the ability to execute that under additional pressure that will define the outcome of that match.’’
The history books show
that Grammar may have the upperhand, having won 128 of the 201 matches, losing 57 and drawing 16.
Grammar has held the highly contested Cooper-Greenbank Cup since 2012 and will be looking to make it three wins in three years when the final whistle is blown.
Big job: Auckland Grammar School first XV captain Rob Harris is ready for the job at hand.