SHARE
Head down . . . North Otago fullback Josh Buchan is challenged by his West Coast counterpart Peter Te Rakau in their Heartland Championship match at Whitestone Contracting Stadium in Oamaru on Saturday. PHOTO: PHIL JANSSEN

There is nothing better than a clash between two old rivals to get the sporting juices flowing. South Canterbury also puts the time-honoured Hanan Shield on the line when it comes to Oamaru to play North Otago in the Heartland Championship this weekend. Hayden Meikle, a completely unbiased observer this week, talks to both coaches. Ironically, the North Otago coach lives in South Canterbury and vice versa.

Nigel Walsh
North Otago
Record: Played 6, won 3, lost 3.
Last week: Beat West Coast 40-19.

Q Thoughts on last week’s performance?
The boys showed the potential they have. They showed what they can do, and the type of rugby they are capable of playing.
The disappointing thing is we should have been playing like that the last three weeks.
We didn’t really change the game plan. We just relaxed and let the boys be themselves, and away they went.

Q Has that brought some confidence and excitement back into the squad?
Hell, yes. There’s a lot of excitement, and the boys are really looking forward to this weekend.

Q Does the South Canterbury clash add a bit of extra spice to the week?
I’m sure there will be plenty of spice given to me while I’m living in Timaru, ha ha.
Even back in the day, when Ratty [Barry Matthews] and I were playing against North Otago, it was always a good derby and always fiercely contested.
Nothing will change this weekend. Obviously South Canterbury will be keen to bounce back after losing last weekend, and we’ll be keen to carry on from what we managed to do.

Q What do you make of this South Canterbury team?
They’re elusive and they’re exciting. But I’m not going to put them on a pedestal. Our boys are keen to have a crack at them, and on the day, everybody is beatable.
You have to play for territory and use your brains in a game like this. It can’t be about going out there to beat each other up, because you lose sight of what you want to achieve.
I think you’ll see some excitement as well as some grit and determination, and it’s about picking where you want to attack them and having a crack.

Barry Matthews
South Canterbury
Record: Played 6, won 4, lost 2.
Last week: Lost to Wairarapa-Bush 27-24.

Q What happened last week?
Wairarapa-Bush deserved to win. They played better than us. They defended really well and had good line speed.
We were 12-0 down after 10 minutes. We came back and led 24-12 at halftime and we thought we’d kick on, but they got momentum and we never looked like scoring again.

Q How are you tracking overall?
We’ve been going good. That first game against Wanganui was tough but since then we’ve been slowly building.
Saturday was a bit of a setback but hopefully it was just a reality check, because we’d been winning games relatively easily and scoring lots of points.
If you’d said we’d be second-equal after six weeks, I would have taken that.

Q Do you relish this rivalry with North Otago?
I live in North Otago and I was involved in coaching North Otago for a long time. I’ve always hoped North Otago do well.
But I also played a lot of rugby for South Canterbury and that’s who I am coaching now.
You always want to beat your friends and your brothers. It’s like backyard cricket. We’re closest neighbours, and it’s always a great battle.

Q What do you make of this North Otago team?
They’ve probably been a bit hot and cold.
But they’ve got a very good team, with a lot of good players, and I thought they’d be right up there this season.