School­boy rugby ri­vals square off

Central Leader - - NEWS - By BEN ROGERS

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

field,’’

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.

–Rob Har­ris

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