Buller confident of 1993 repeat
West Coast might not care about the Seddon Shield, having reneged on their scheduled challenge this year, but the same certainly does not apply to Buller who challenge the Marlborough Red Devils for the coveted trophy at Lansdowne Park tomorrow.
It's Marlborough's first defence of the shield this season, their fourth in the current reign since winning it off Nelson Bays in 2010 and Buller are very keen to win it.
Buller are coached by Craig Neill and Craig Scanlon. Neill was in the Buller side which won the trophy off Marlborough in an epic challenge back in 1993. It ended a record tenure by Marlborough and ranks as one of Buller's finest wins.
He still has very fond memories of that win and will be a part of the 1993 team reunion later this season.
Neill said his team were keen to take the shield back home tomorrow and he rated their chances.
"It [Seddon Shield] still does mean a lot in Buller. Our preparation hasn't been great but we still think we can win. This is the best Buller team, on paper, I've been involved with since 1993.
"We've got this game and the Nelson Bays game next week, but we have to win the shield first to play that one before our Heartland game starts."
Included in the Buller team are former Makos forwards Ben Coman and James Foster.
While traditionally Buller have been very tough up front, Neill said they had some good backs and would prefer conditions conducive to playing on top of the ground.
That won't happen because heavy and persistent rain in Blenheim over the last three weeks means Lansdowne Park number one will be wet and muddy.
Red Devils coach Steve Crockett knows that and stressed the need for his team to establish control up front before contemplating anything too expansive.
"We have to do the donkey work up front. The bulk of this team has been there and done that as far as Seddon Shield rugby is concerned.
"I'm confident we will rise to the occasion and that we'll be good enough to win on Saturday.
"The focus is not on defending the shield. It's about going out and winning it."
Crockett is hoping that superior fitness should allow them to lift the pace of the game when required and, like Buller, he would prefer to move the ball around if possible.
There are changes and a couple of brackets in the Marlborough team from that which played in their last match, against North Canterbury way back on June 27.
Kaikoura's Andrew Zuppicich starts at hooker, Daniel Crockett and James Pigou have been bracketed at blindside flanker with Stu Campbell and Daniel Karena locking. Awatere winger Nick Pope makes his provincial debut outside centre George Millar.
The Central trio of front-rower Paulo Sao, who is listed to start at tighthead, plus loose-forwards Reuben Harvey and Matt Gibson are poised to make their Marlborough debuts if selected.
The winner of tomorrow's match defends the Seddon Shield against Nelson Bays next Saturday at the holder's home ground.
Kick-off time is 2pm.
Marlborough: Rawiri Tamati, Nick Pope, George Millar, Onolevu Temo, Jake Cresswell, Daniel Hawkins, Daniel MacDonald, Stu Dalzell, Joe Stewart, James Pigou/Dan Crockett, Stu Campbell (cpt), Daniel Karena, Paulo Sao, Andrew Zuppicich, Kurt Lindsay.
Subs: Willie Alaiasa, Mike Schmidt-Lealava'a, Chris Murphy, Gareth Archer, Anaru Norton, Reuben Harvey/Matt Gibson, Crockett/Pigou.
Buller: Marty Banks, Marcos Nariaria, Trael Joass, Pene Naibanavalu, William Sakuru, Andrew Stephens, Bevan Te Tai, Luke Brownlee, Apisa Vuna, Ben Coman, James Foster, Logan Mundy, Ilaisa Namua, Phil Beveridge.
Subs: Steven Crackett, Phil Cinraid, Isei Lewaquai, Matt Parata, Dave Greig, Sam Marris, Craig Adam.
The Marlborough Express