Here comes the old enemy.
McKeown Petroleum North Otago extends the welcome mat to its greatest rival, South Canterbury, for the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship game at Whitestone Contracting Stadium on Saturday.
There is no bigger date in the calendar for the Old Golds, who can turn a good season into a great season (or a poor season into a decent season) with a win over their neighbours.
History and form always combine to make this a huge occasion for both teams.
The first match between the two unions was way back in 1927 – the year the North Otago Rugby Football Union was formed. Since then, the teams have met 132 times. South Canterbury leads the fixture with 85 wins to North Otago’s 42, and there have been five draws.
Interestingly, North Otago has dominated over the last couple of decades, having won 14 of the last 17 encounters.
The teams have similar coaches – both are called Barry, both were combative halfbacks, and both know all about North Otago rugby.
Barry Stevens, who played club rugby here for Valley, is in his second year coaching the Old Golds, and has had a long coaching career at club and representative level in Otago.
Barry Matthews, the former South Canterbury and Canterbury halfback, coached North Otago to Meads Cup glory in 2010 and now guides the fortunes of the green and blacks, as well as the New Zealand Heartland XV.
South Canterbury is having a better season. It has won five of six games, and is second in the Heartland Championship, while North Otago has won two and drawn two of its six games, and is seventh.
But when the whistle blows, all that has gone before is irrelevant as the two great rivals lock horns for cross-border supremacy.
The game is preceded by the under-15 clash at 1.10pm.Best Sneakers2021 adidas Ultraboost 21 Midnight Navy/Black-White FY0350 For Sale