Arrowtown kicks off its rugby season with a defence of the prestigious White Horse Cup this Saturday.
Matakanui will challenge for the cup, which is the Central Otago competition’s equivalent of the Ranfurly Shield, at Arrowtown’s home ground Jack Reid Park.
Arrowtown were runners-up in last year’s competition but have held the White Horse at the end of the season for the past three years running.
Club stalwart Aidan Winter will captain the team, playing first or second-five during the season.
Coach Hayden Finch says nine or 10 players have returned from last season but there’s a lot of new faces.
Finch expects a still challenge from Matakanui which is celebrating its 125th season.
“They’re always very strong up front and very physical.”
Meanwhile, the Wakatipu Premiers also play at home, taking on last year’s competition winner Maniototo.
Colourful Wakatipu club member Regan Pearce is captaining the side and likely to play first-five.
Wakatipu Premiers coach Kelvin Middleton says Pearce led Wakatipu B side The Wanderers last season and did a good job.
Pearce, one of the club’s star players of recent years hit Mountain Scene headlines a few seasons back when he publicly criticised some team members for not trying hard enough.
Middleton says: “Yes, he’s been a very controversial figure indeed but he’s going to run the ship whether he’s captain or not so we’re giving him the chance. He’s got the ability and got the skills – especially as a player. ”
Middleton, whose assistant coach this season is former first-five Damian ‘Dippers’ Petre, says Maniototo are one of the more innovative sides with a backline led by former rep player Charlie Hore.
“They’ll be well drilled. Charlie watches a lot of rugby and he’s always trying new moves – they’ve deservedly been the champions for the last two seasons running,” Middleton says.
Grant ‘Spud’ Murphy and Graeme ‘Buckets’ Jones will coach the Wanderers who play away this Saturday against Roxburgh.
Opening round draw: Arrowtown v Matakanui, Arrowtown’s Jack Reid Park; Wakatipu Premiers v Maniototo, Queenstown Recreation Ground; Wakatipu Wanderers v Roxburgh, Roxburgh. All games at 2.45pm