Heartland rugby does not get any better than this. North Otago v South Canterbury – and the Hanan Shield is at stake. Hayden Meikle catches up with the two coaches ahead of Saturday’s big clash in Timaru, and asks them:
1. What is your overall assessment of your season so far?
2. What will you need to do better if you are going to win the Meads Cup?
3. What are you expecting from your Hanan Shield opponent on Saturday?
NIGEL WALSH, North Otago
1. “We’re pulling in the right direction. Yes, we were disappointed with the two narrow losses. We could quite easily have been four from four, and sitting quite nicely. It just means we have a test match every week now. This weekend is no different to last week. We’ve got to front up and put it on the park.”
2. “When we get momentum going, we’ve got to keep the hammer down. We’ve been able to start quite well and get points on the board, but then we’ve eased off and let the opposition come back into the game, instead of putting the foot on the throat. We’ve got to be a bit more ruthless in what we do.”
3. “South Canterbury is a formidable side. They’re been up there in semifinals and final for the last few years. They’ve got two good coaches. So we’re expecting a tough day. In saying that, we’re a different team, and we want to target this game. We’re not going to go up there and lie down. We need to keep our momentum going if we’re to be serious contenders for the top four.”
BARRY MATTHEWS, South Canterbury
1. “To be honest, we’re very lucky we’ve got bonus points in most of our games. We’re probably not playing as well as we could but we’re very happy to be sitting at the top of the table at the halfway stage.”
2. “We’ve just got to be more ruthless. In every game, there’s something that doesn’t quite go to plan, so we’ve got to react quicker and try to fix things on the field. But the boys are trucking along OK. It’s a very even competition this year – I think probably the most even of any I’ve been involved in, which is great. Look at this week. If we win, we’ll be first. If we don’t, we could be fourth or fifth. Any given team could beat any other team.”
3. “They’ve obviously got a bit of size, which probably they’ve lacked the last two or three years. Their No 8 is a very good carrier of the ball. They’ve dominated most scrums they’ve come up against. Ralphie Darling is in probably some of the best form of his life. North Otago could quite easily be four from four. They’ll be as tough as any team.”