A former All Black is likely to make his season-debut for Wakatipu’s premier rugby team this Saturday.
The Wakatipu Premiers hope to be bolstered by 81-Test All Black veteran Justin Marshall, who shifted to Queenstown after the devastating Christchurch earthquakes two years ago.
Marshall plans to be on deck for what’s shaping up as a tough White Horse Cup defence against Maniototo.
Maniototo may have access to All Black and Highlanders front-rowers Andrew Hore and Tony Woodcock.
Back in February, Mountain Scene revealed Marshall’s desire to get on the paddock for Wakatipu – at the time he said: “I’ve got to move on from rugby but it does still motivate me – I don’t know when that’ll leave my system.”
Wakatipu had its first successful defence of the White Horse – considered Central Otago’s version of the Ranfurly Shield – last weekend at the Recreation Ground in Queens-town against Alexandra, beating the visitors by 31-18.
Coach Damian Petre says the game wasn’t as easy as they’d hoped, with Alexandra “growing an extra leg” to contest the Cup.
“Now that it’s out of the road it could be described as good preparation for this weekend,” he says.
With the winless Highlanders having a bye this weekend during the Super 15 competition, Hore and Woodcock are likely to front up on Saturday.
“That will add a bit of spice to their team,” Petre adds.
“Our guys will be aware that they’re likely to play.
“I guess they’re pretty excited about it but it has no real impact on what we’re trying to achieve,” Petre says.
“If we perform as we should we can take the impact of a couple of front-rowers out of the equation but if we let them control the game, they’ll be a handful.”
Marshall’s presence will be important but the team shouldn’t rely solely on him, Petre adds.
“Any time you’re going to have a player of his calibre on your side it’s certainly going to boost the spirits of those around him. I don’t think there’ll be too many occasions in the past where there’s been three All Blacks roll out at the Rec Ground for a club game, so it’s a good incentive for people to come down.”
Despite the pressure, the team isn’t nervous, he says.
“It’s pretty exciting. It’s these sorts of games that make or break your season. If you get through a wall like that it gives you a lot of confidence moving forward.
“We’re ready for it and we’ve been waiting for a real test, so this will show what we’re made of.”
Last weekend, Arrowtown ground out a tough 14-10 win against Cromwell. Adam Hubber scored Arrowtown’s sole try and Kane Dodds drilled three penalty kicks.
After three rounds of the competition, the Wakatipu Premiers are tied at the top of the 11-team table with Upper Clutha, both with three wins from three.
Arrowtown are in fifth place, but have two wins from two and a game in hand.