A lift in off-field performance is credited with helping the Wakatipu Premiers rugby side’s revival.
After a disappointing seventh placing in last season’s Central Otago competition, they’re unbeaten and top-of-the-table after four rounds this year.
In three games, including last Saturday’s home win over Clyde Earnscleugh, they’ve topped 50 points.
New assistant coach Simon Harper says a holistic approach to coaching is being taken, “in terms of not just what happens on the field, but definitely what happens off it, too”.
Harper, who played for the side in the early 2000s, minds the backs but is also in charge of off-field activities with manager and former coach Damian Petre.
A lot of it, he explains, is respecting the history and legacy of the club, like engaging with club stalwarts and maintaining dress standards.
“We’ve got a team song now, and we do non-rugby activities every Saturday, just a bit of team bonding, after the game – we had a quiz last weekend.”
A match-day package is handed out after Thursday night trainings.
Along with game plans, players learn the history of the club they’re playing and the town they’re from.
From a 30-man playing squad, 22 are picked each game and the other eight play for the Wanderers in the Southland third division competition.
As to the White Horse Cup challenge on May 13 against Arrowtown, Harper says the game preyed on the players’ minds last Saturday. While they racked up 58 points, he’s unhappy they conceded 31.
Something head coach Justin Pewhairangi is pushing this year is respecting the opposition and “we didn’t do that,” Harper says.
The silver lining is the side should be “sharper” this Saturday against Upper Clutha at the Queenstown Recreation Ground. Kick-off’s at 2.30pm.
The Arrowtown Prems, meanwhile, managed a come-from-behind 23-20 win over Cromwell at the Queenstown Events Centre, to keep the White Horse Cup and Battle of the Gorge Trophy.
This Saturday they’re away to Alex-andra, while the Wakatipu Wanderers – who lost 21-20 to Bush Pirates – play Balfour/Lumsden at Balfour.