Forget the losses last week.
Both the Arrowtown and Wakatipu Premiers rugby coaches are adamant their teams will be primed for home semi-finals in the Central Otago competition on Saturday.
Despite losing three of their past four games, Arrowtown topped the points table after two round-robins – after losing 22-0 to Maniototo last Saturday, they play fourth-placed Alexandra in a White Horse Cup double-header.
Although Wakatipu suffered a shock 18-10 loss to Alexandra last Saturday, their first defeat at home this season, they remained competition runners-up and will square off against third-placed Upper Clutha.
The two local sides beat their semi-final opponents at home in the last round – Arrowtown sweeping aside Alexandra 18-0 and Wakatipu taking out Upper Clutha 17-0.
Time for Wakatipu to focus again
Semi II: Wakatipu v Upper Clutha Queenstown Rec Ground, 2.45pm
The 18-10 defeat to Alexandra was the wake-up call Wakatipu needed for Saturday’s Upper Clutha clash.
So says coach Lindsay Thomas, who’s calling on his players to regain the form they were showing before last weekend.
“I don’t think we were 100 per cent focused – I think we under-rated their challenge a bit.”
The players had found it hard coming down from their euphoric win over Arrowtown the week before for a game that was probably “a bit of a no-rubber”.
“I think we need to improve right across the park.
“As a coaching staff, we’re disappointed but it’s not a bad thing as long as we learn from it.”
Thomas says his team are thrilled to make the semis after two disappointing seasons.
He’s sure Upper Clutha will bring “an all-or-nothing performance”.
“The last time I thought they were one of the hardest teams we’ve had to play.
“It’s going to be a battle out there and the team that wants it the most will probably win.”
Thomas says this year’s competition has been “absolutely fantastic”.
“I watched a lot of rugby last year, selecting for Otago Country, and this year is far improved.”
Bulls in for the long haul
Semi I: Arrowtown v Alexandra Jack Reid Park, 2.45pm
After being frontrunners all season, Arrowtown have to dig deep over the next nine days if they want to put their name on the White Horse Cup for the first time.
Losing three out of their past four games mightn’t seem good preparation for a semi-final but Arrowtown’s coach is unfazed.
Blair Wilce says his players knew for the past month they were “pretty much guaranteed” a home semi and that probably affected their mindset.
Suffering flu and injuries, his team hit rock-bottom in losing 42-7 to Wakatipu two weeks ago.
They lost 22-0 away to Maniototo last Saturday but Wilce was pleased his players “really gutsed it out”.
They took only 17 players over to Ranfurly and in the second half he and two other ex-players, Ben O’Malley and Nick Johnson, formed the front row to pack down for Golden Oldies scrums.
Wilce is confident his team can do the job against Alexandra on Saturday.
Some players still won’t be 100 per cent “but they’re just going to play anyway”.
Having the White Horse Cup up for grabs again will also be “huge motivation” – Arrowtown originally took the trophy off Alexandra three months ago.
Under a rule change, the holder has not only to defend the cup for every round-robin game but also for home emis and finals, too.