Regardless of the result, enjoy the occasion.
That is the message from the coaches of Waitaki Boys’ High School and St Kevin’s College First XVs ahead of today’s annual interschool clash.
The two teams square off for the Leo O’Malley Trophy at Whitestone Contracting Stadium at 1.30pm today.
Both school teams are in good form this season.
In the second round of the Otago premier schools competition last weekend, Waitaki Boys’ drew 17-17 with South Otago High School, and St Kevin’s lost to a strong Otago Boys’ High School Second XV 28-12, in a game closer than the scoreline suggested.
This year’s Waitaki Boys’ team was young, and it was important players did not get overwhelmed by the occasion, coach Jeremiah Shields said.
“[For] some of them, it will be the biggest crowd they have played in front of, and the key will be executing their skills under pressure,” Shields said.
“I’ve been involved in rugby as a player and now coach, and sometimes you forget to enjoy the week, and the game – I’ll be telling the boys to do that.”
Normally, the annual game is played near the end of the rugby season, and both school sides have often struggled with competition games afterwards.
This year, the rugby season had only just started, and there was plenty more to play for in the coming months, win or lose today, Shields said.
“It’s not the be all and end all.
“It is a big game but it’s also a stepping stone for the rest of the season.”
St Kevin’s coach Justin Fowler said his side was taking a similar approach to the annual clash.
“It’s a great day and something the boys look forward to since they have been here in year 9, if not before,” Fowler said.
“They have to enjoy the day and remember it no matter what happens.
“Key thing is to enjoy it, have fun, soak in the atmosphere – that’s why everybody plays footy.”
The lockdown had limited the amount of time the teams had to prepare for the season, which meant some St Kevin’s combinations were a little bit “rusty”, he said.
“We certainly have an idea how we want to play. We have quite a few smart boys; it’s good to see them pick up the game plan and stick to it.
“It often takes a long time to get kids to play to the system but most of these guys picked it up straight away.”
Waitaki Boys’ rector Darryl Paterson said he and St Kevin’s principal Paul Olsen were looking forward to their schools writing another chapter in the “the wonderful history of this unique event”.
“The annual interschool First XV rugby match [today] between Waitaki Boys’ High School and St Kevin’s College is the culmination of a week of outstanding competition and sportsmanship, which epitomises the 93 years of mutual respect and friendly rivalry which exists between our schools,” Mr Paterson said.
Mr Paterson said both schools “deplore the vile actions of a small number of Waitaki old boys” that had “tarnished the proud reputation” of the school, after a series of off-field incidents in the lead-up to this year’s game, including vandalism this week and an altercation resulting in serious injury last week.
“This does not reflect Waitaki’s current ethos of outstanding character’,” he said.