One school defying the odds at the year-7 and 8 national tournament in Palmerston North this week are Tai Tapu School from Canterbury.
The small school of 300 students 20 minutes from Christchurch on the way to Banks Peninsula does not have anywhere near the same number of pupils as the other schools at the tournament at Ongley Park.
Tai Tapu have only 16 intermediate girls, 13 of them are at the tournament and they are the only primary-intermediate school here.
"They're a bunch of girls who are very sport-orientated," said coach Chris Els.
"They always had to punch above their weight."
Els has a class of 24 with 16 girls and eight boys.
Of the other three girls, one is in Australia showjumping for New Zealand.
Tai Tapu have it tough against the other three schools in the NZC Shield girls' competition as they are all intermediate schools.
The numbers are also against them, with Auckland Intermediate Normal School having more than 600 students, Heaton Intermediate School from Christchurch more than 550 and Havelock North Intermediate School more than 600.
Els said the country school had come via the long route to get to the tournament.
It was their second year together and they were keen to do well this year after just missing out last season.
"It's been one of those years," said Els.
"A very sporty class these girls. I think the advantage for these girls, they have been with each other since they were five."
Yesterday, Tai Tapu scored 83 for five to win in a thriller by five wickets with three balls to spare when they dismissed Auckland for 82.
In the boys' NZC Cup finals, the teams are John McGlashan College (Dunedin) Tauranga Intermediate School, Medbury School (Christchurch) and Hutt International Boys' School.
- The Manawatu Standard