Thursday, 7 October 2010

Whichever way you look at it, tomorrow’s seventh Ranfurly Shield defense promises to be a Herculean task.

Let’s be honest here. Man for man, the Canterbury fifteen are better than their Southland counterparts. They boast a more than useful forward pack, boosted by the return of Sam Whitelock, two former All Blacks in Isaac Ross and Wyatt Crockett, plus Corey Flynn (even though he’ll only be the second best hooker on a park).

But it’s the backs where Canterbury could really cause carnage. An All Blacks halfback and first five-eighth combination, the combined 217 kgs of the bruise brothers in the midfield and, for good measure, the fastest bloke in New Zealand rugby at fullback.

Yep, man for man, we’ll struggle. So where can Southland win when are odds seem so stacked in Canterbury’s favour?

The answer lies partly with talisman players Jason Rutledge, Jamie Mackintosh, Jimmy Cowan and Robbie Robinson. The answer lies partly with workhorses Chris King and Josh Bekhuis. The answer lies partly with the likes of John Hardie, Tim Boys and Matt Saunders sacrificing their bodies for the greater good, with the latter most probably having to donate his to medical science after 80 minutes of Sonny Bill bashing.

But most of all the answer lies in the numbers game. This epic encounter is not about fifteen men versus fifteen. It’s about fifteen Cantabrians versus 15,000 Southlanders and that’s why Southland will win.

* Tonight in my old home town of Riversdale, former Commonwealth Games star Dick Tayler will be the guest speaker at a gala fundraising evening for World Youth Olympic gold medal-winning triathlete Aaron Barclay.

Like a lot of small country towns, Riversdale can claim its fair share of sporting glitterati. The late great Kel Tremain, is probably the most famous footy player, even though he spent only one year, 1957, in the district and didn’t make the All Blacks until 1959. Steve Hardiman was a New Zealand Colt and a member of the 1966 Southland side that tipped up the Lions.

Shona Elder (nee Sanson) represented Southland in five sports (hockey, golf, tennis, squash and badminton) while Lew Hollands could claim four (rugby, cricket, tennis and badminton).

To the best of my knowledge though, Northern Southland’s finest village has never produced a world champion. That is up until now. Which makes young Barclay, deservedly, Riversdale’s most famous sporting son.


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