Marlborough clubs shine
The game I saw on Saturday was what club rugby is all about. I was at what must be one of the most idyllic grounds in New Zealand, Moutere’s home ground at Spring Creek.
At the top of the stand you look out over all the activity on the field and sidelines and see the changing colours of the leaves in the vineyards behind and then the mountains behind that.
Waitohi got an important bonus point win at the last minute, and I can’t see them faltering in the next few games in the Tasman Trophy. Waitohi is unbeaten and, along with Central, have shown there is real strength in the Marlborough clubs.
Earlier in the season I talked about the advantages of the Nelson clubs, with their width and pace, but I also said those strengths would be negated as we got deeper into winter and we’re seeing that now. The forward packs for Waitohi and Central have won the battles for their teams over the past few weeks and early frontrunners Wanderers have fallen away because of injuries.
They are the strongest team on paper but other teams have taken the challenge to them. Waimea is playing the most exciting rugby and when they have their Super 15 big guns, they have destroyed teams.
But who knows who they’ll get back from Super rugby, and who knows who will recover for Wanderers, so it is an intriguing time in the club scene.
I’ve been keeping one eye on that and the other on the emerging players squad. I’ll be naming a squad of 24 to take on Canterbury and Otago in pre- season matches. It will be an opportunity for the club players who have proved themselves to mix it with the contracted Makos players, and depending on the Super 15 fallout by then, we’ll take two or three Super 15 players too.
We play Canterbury on a Wednesday, Otago on the Saturday, then bus back to Christchurch to fly home on Sunday. The next day, which I call induction day, I name my Makos squad.
Last year we had 26 but this year, I hope to name a squad of 30. We won’t be able to do the job with just 26.