Thursday, 18 March 2010

The long-awaited Ranfurly Shield draw, released this week, has a province collectively filling in its sporting diary for August, September and October.

Although Roger Clark and his merry men at Rugby Park HQ would probably have preferred Counties Manukau as a first-up challenger, the prospect of Otago leaves the mouth watering like only a Bluff oyster can.

Pure head-not-heart rugby logic would suggest it’ll be a minor miracle if the Stags can defend the Log of Wood for the entire season. It doesn’t get any tougher than an Auckland, Canterbury, Wellington finish.

Otago on August 7, who could be accompanied by as many as 5000 fans, will not be a walk in the (rugby) park either but this promises to be, arguably, Southland’s greatest rugby occasion.

The message to Stags fans is simple. Buy your tickets now, stop the enemy at the border, and by stealth barricade and limit the Otago contingent to 500.

* The early rounds of the Super 14 seem to have generated more interest this season than in the past few. Mind you, they’d need to.

I’m sure I speak for many fans when I say I can never get too excited about rugby until the Easter bunny has been and gone. My sporting focus over the next couple of weeks will be the two cricket tests, the first of which starts today, against the Aussies. Then there’s the small matter of Tiger Woods’ comeback at the Masters from April 9-12.

The Masters is already the greatest golf tournament on the planet. Tiger’s reappearance after his self-imposed sin-binning will send it into orbit.

Tomorrow night the Highlanders take on the Sharks at Carisbrook. I’ll be there to watch my first live Super 14 rugby (including on television) of 2010. The Highlanders team has a useful look about it and I really like the backline with boy wonder Robbie Robinson getting his starting debut at 10 inside the confrontational (if not punctual) Michael Hobbs.

The forwards, however, could do with a greater Southland representation. With no Tom Donnelly, Joe Tuineau should be partnering Josh Bekhuis. I’d like to see the hard-working Chris King make up an all-Stags front row and what does Tim Boys have to do to get a starting role?

* I’ll leave the final word today to Tony Laker who e-mailed me the following considered comment:

I heard Martin Sneddon on the radio this week talking about how security at the Rugby World Cup games will be tight and people will need to get there well before kick-off. He said because of that, his committee will have to ensure they provide some really good pre-game entertainment. I’ve got two words for Martin – CURTAIN RAISER! Give me SBHS vs Waitaki Boys any day compared to cheerleaders, races, ‘do stupid things for cash’, a band (unless it’s AC/DC) or any other non-rugby related thing!


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