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Schoolboy rivals' milestone rugby match

BEN ROGERS
Last updated 05:00 11/06/2014
Rob Harris
BIG JOB: Auckland Grammar School first XV captain Rob Harris is ready for the job at hand.

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One of the country's longest running rivalries in schoolboy rugby will be revisited this Saturday when two teams meet for the 202nd time.

Auckland Grammar School and Kings College first met on the rugby field in 1896 and their modern day clashes are now among the most anticipated on the first XV calendar.

Both have proud rugby traditions. Grammar has churned out a national record of over 50 All Blacks including Grant Fox and Wilson Whineray while Kings has also produced its fair share of greats including Ali Williams and Ian Kirkpatrick.

This year the two schools are coming together with a gala dinner at Vector Arena the night before the battle for the Cooper-Greenbank Cup.

"This will be the first time there has been a dinner of this nature, it's there to celebrate a very long established rivalry between two schools," assistant coach and director of rugby Ben Skeen says.

"Undeniably, there is a lot more hype around the game than most within our calendar."

More than 1200 guests expected on the night will be treated to audio visual displays, guest speakers and comedians from the television show 7 Days.

Grammar captain Rob Harris is staying focused - despite the surrounding hype - and is mentally preparing for the game.

"It's a big role to play and a big honour to be the captain, but I just have to make sure I play my game and keep the team to the structures.

"You can definitely tell the rivalry is there by the crowd that turns up to watch, but you have to treat it like any other game."

This year the game will be played at King's College and a crowd of around 6000 is expected.

Players will be called out on to the field before the match and there will be two hakas performed by the boarding houses from each school.

"There needs to be a systematic approach, so we honour all the history and soak up the environment because it's exciting," Skeen says.

"But there is also a moment to pause and think about the job at hand and then go about playing rugby."

The Rugby Channel will be broadcasting live from the ground.

"We impress upon the boys that whilst there are cameras and a large crowd, it is still 15 players versus 15 players on the field," Skeen says.

"Clearly there will be a game plan and it will be the ability to execute that under additional pressure that will define the outcome of that match."

The history books show that Grammar may have the upper-hand, having won 128 of the 201 matches, losing 57 and drawing 16.

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Grammar has held the highly contested Cooper-Greenbank Cup since 2012 and will be looking to make it three wins in three years when the final whistle is blown.

- Central Leader

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