Marl­bor­ough clubs shine

Marlborough Midweek - - Front Page -

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.

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