For the first time in five years, the Wakatipu Premiers have qualified for the final of the Central Otago rugby comp.
After sensationally downing Upper Clutha 44-15 in their semi-final in Wanaka last weekend, they face defending champs Cromwell Goats this Saturday at the Queenstown Recreation Ground.
In a juicy sub-plot, Waka’s only loss this season — 33-31 — came when they played Cromwell in a qualifying final, also in Queenstown, just three weeks ago.
As a result, they had to play an extra game — against bottom-section winner Matakanui —while Upper Clutha sat the week out.
The loss also meant they had to travel to Wanaka to play unbeaten Upper Clutha, whom they drew 32-all with during the round robin.
‘‘We made it hard for ourselves, having to head over there, but we all knew what we were capable of,’’ Waka coach Brett Anderson says.
He readily admits it was, at least to date, the highlight of the season.
‘‘I think so, especially after not quite getting the job done against them last time.
‘‘To put on a performance like that, that was pretty consistent and solid through 80 minutes, was very pleasing.’’
In hindsight, he thinks playing that extra game helped their momentum, while he says he’s also been working with his leadership group on the mental side of their game.
Anderson has a ‘‘pretty clear’’ message to his players about staying focused through the whole game this weekend.
In their one draw and one loss, ‘‘we had 20-minute lapses in concentration where a team scored against us and went on to score three times against us, so we know we can’t leave the gate open’’.
He praises his team’s supporters this season who put on a bus to Wanaka last Saturday — ‘‘it’s huge for the players, it really helps on the field’’.
Referring to the noise they made when Waka were coming back against Cromwell last month, Anderson says ‘‘hopefully they can double that this weekend and everyone in Dunedin will be able to hear us’’.
He notes Waka and Cromwell have ‘‘a fair bit of history over the last seven or eight years, and they’ve definitely had the upper hand’’.
‘‘They’ve been a powerhouse for a number of years, hopefully it’s time for us to have our time in the sun now.
‘‘In 11 Premiers seasons I’ve been involved with Wakatipu, we’ve only made one final, and we won it, so hopefully we can make it two from two on Saturday.’’