Battle of the basin banter as final looms
After a last-gasp semi-final win, the shackles are off and Wakatipu are peaking at the right time, their coach says.
The Queenstown-based side will contest an all-Wakatipu basin Central Otago rugby final this weekend after cross-town rival Arrowtown also won its semifinal.
Wakatipu secured its place with an extra time try to overcome defending champion and White Horse Cup holder Cromwell 25-20 at the Queenstown Recreation Ground on Saturday.
Arrowtown got a 25-20 win over Maniototo on Sunday at the Queenstown Events Centre after the match was delayed a day due to weather.
Wakatipu coach Justin Pewhairangi said being able to ‘‘score a few’’ against Cromwell enabled more confidence after an up-and-down second round.
The players and coaching staff were just ‘‘relieved’’ to have made the final, he said.
‘‘I think the expectations have been playing on the boys’ minds for a while now.
‘‘The last three years have been a bit lean [trophy wise].’’
The last time the two sides met in a final was in 2011 when Wakatipu won in Alexandra.
In two previous encounters this year, the teams have split wins.
Pewhairangi expected there to be nothing between the teams in Queenstown on Saturday.
‘‘Whoever takes their chances will win the game.
‘‘I think it will be very much like the semi against Cromwell.
‘‘When we get those chances, we’ve got to take them.’’
Slowing down Arrowtown’s loose trio would be key and Wakatipu’s expansive game plan would not change much.
Battle of the basin banter had already started, with most players from the respective sides knowing each other, he said.
A large crowd was expected for the first home final for any team in seven years. The competition had previously featured a ‘‘finals day’’ spread among clubs in the region.
‘‘It’s going to be good,’’ Pewhairangi said. ‘‘It will be good for the club.’’
Arrowtown coach Simon Spark felt his side would be ‘‘up against it’’ and it would be a ‘‘massive challenge’’ to win.
‘‘We’ll have to be at our very best to beat them.’’
❚ Kick off is 2.30pm.
Wakatipu and Cromwell forwards prepare to set a scrum during Saturday’s premier rugby semi-final in Queenstown.