It will be with a degree of trepidation, mixed with excitement when Wairarapa College Ist XV run out onto Trust House Memorial Park in the opening round of the Tranzit Coachlines 1st XV Festival this Saturday afternoon.
Squaring off with the form number one college rugby team in New Zealand, Hastings Boys’ High School, the home side face a David and Goliath challenge.
Co-coach Garry Smith says the players are up for it, but also realistic.
The action at the park will be a rugby treat for fans of the national game.
Forget Sky TV’s Range Rover 1st XV rugby, the 1st XV Festival is made up of the best eight college sides in the Hurricanes catchment, some of them traditional powerhouses at national secondary school level. Among them Hastings Boys’, who finished runners-up in the national competition last year, and based on early form this season are on course to go one better.
The competition is spread over three weeks. All round one matches are being played at Memorial Park in Masterton on Saturday, in Napier next weekend, and then Wellington the following Saturday.
Following Hastings Boys’, Wairarapa College play Palmerston Boys’ High
School, finishing off against Gisborne Boys’ High School.
Wellington College, St Pat’s Town (Wellington) and Rongotai make up the other three teams.
A big crowd is expected at Memorial Park on Saturday with the early games kicking off at midday on the No.1 and No.2 grounds, and then at 1.30pm
Wairarapa College won the right to compete in the Festival after finishing in the top four of the Wellington Secondary School premier one competition last year.
Wairarapa College is jointly coached by Garry Smith and former Wairarapa-Bush coach Graeme Cheetham.
Smith says to play in the Festival is a huge honour for the school. It’s also a big deal for local players who will get to impress Hurricanes Under-18 selectors.
Smith says his players are excited about the challenge, but also realistic.
“We’ve done some goal setting and know what we are up against. These are some of the best teams in the country,” Smith says.
Wairarapa College has a big season ahead of them with the Wellington premier one competition and then Co-ed Cup, finishing off with a tour to Australia.
Smith says the Wellington competition is their priority, and with that in mind will be using the next three weeks as pre-season.
“We know that we will be really up against it. But out of it I think the boys are going to gain a heck of a lot and be really matched hardened for the rest of the season.”
Wairarapa College has a relatively young side with nine players from 2016 having left school. A strength of the team will be the loose forward trio of Adam Gordon, Chris Dickson and Sam Smith. Centre Joe Gordon is the captain.
(All games at Memorial Park, Saturday 6 May)
Palmerston North Boys’ v St Pat’s, No.1 noon
Gisborne Boys’ v Wellington College, No.2 noon
Hastings Boys’ v Wairarapa College, No.1 1.30pm
Napier Boys’ v Rongotai, No.2 1.30pm