Call it the ultimate ‘Battle of the Basin’ showdown.
This Saturday’s mouth-watering final of the Central Otago rugby competition pits the Wakatipu Premiers, on their home Queenstown Recreation Ground, against neighbours Arrowtown.
Kick-off is 2.30pm.
Placed first and second, respectively, after the round robin competition, they saw off their semi-final opponents in pulsating home matches last weekend.
Wakatipu accounted for last year’s champions Cromwell 25-20 in extra time on Saturday.
The following day, Arrowtown beat Maniototo by the same score – remarkably, their third win this season against the doughty Ranfurly-based side.
Wakatipu and Arrowtown have clashed twice this season, with each side taking a win.
After finishing a dismal seventh last season, Wakatipu have been the big improvers this year.
Coach Justin Pewhairangi says the secret’s been retaining nine or 10 players from last year.
He’s confident about Saturday’s derby but says he’s been involved in enough finals not to be too confident.
“We respect Arrowtown massively, of course. They’ve got a really good forward pack, like ‘Goony’s’ [Aidan Winter] 50 years old and he’s still dominating that breakdown area.
“We’ve got to combat them around the breakdown and then watch their speed out wide and make our first-up tackles.”
Saturday will be the 50th blazer games for Wakatipu captain Bradley Cross, a converted forward, and second-five Tom Kelly.
Arrowtown coach Simon Spark hails his side’s defensive effort last Sunday, and says it was good to get the semi-final monkey off their back after falling at that hurdle the past two years.
He’s picking “a hell of an exciting game” this weekend – “two teams that can attack and two teams that can defend pretty well when they have to, so it’s going to be very intense”.
“We’ll have to play at our very, very best to win.”