There are no prizes for guessing which division two rugby game will command most interest on Saturday.
Any bookie worth his salt would be keeping the odds tight when framing a market for those tipping the Riverton-Marist clash at Riverton.
After all, Marist is first equal with Collegiate on the points table and Riverton third. Either, at this stage, would seem capable of meeting Collegiate in a final down the track.
Riverton associate coach Joel Allen and Nathan Burgess (Marist) report that their teams escaped relatively unscathed after round seven action last Saturday.
The Marist injury rate was relatively low after a bruising showdown against gritty winners Collegiate.
Riverton experienced a timely warning the day before when perhaps under-rating plucky hosts Woodlands, rose to the occasion and not for the first time over the past two seasons.
Allen hinted that Riverton had learned from its hard earned 10-5 win and would not take any team too lightly from now on.
"It goes to show you that there is only one day to assess a team and that is on the day or night of the game."
Allen said his Riverton team's strength was that it was a capable overall unit rather than a team of some standouts and would attempt to enforce that more in the weeks ahead.
Basically, the name of the game was to improve each week and that would be Riverton's focus, he said.
Burgess said Marist might be able to get three or four of its core players back this week after they had been absent for varying and genuine reasons.
"From past experience I have generally found Riverton to be tough to beat on their home ground, with some nuggety and handy players to contend with," Burgess said.
Division two rugby, more than any other senior grade, could be influenced markedly by players involved with work shifts and various dairying commitments.
Injuries and weekend work played a major part in what players could front up and managers and coaches could be subjected to some frustrations. The situation was graphically illustrated last week when the Blues coaching bench had to front up and play at Balfour.
"We pulled through pretty well with no injuries to speak of," Allen said.
"Our team and combinations will be pretty much the same as last week."
Draw compiler and supervisor Donald McFarlane, of Te Anau, advises that after the basic round-robin the top six teams and the bottom six will split from June 28 until July 26 for a further round of five games with the top two teams (in both top and bottom) staging finals on August 2.
Points will be wiped completely at the start of the second rounds, he said.
Most pundits will tip the Midlands-Pirates Old Boys game at Winton as the most evenly balanced and difficult to assess.
Overall, both teams have appeared capable at times, on paper at least, with little separating them in terms of ability.
It would have been an odds on bet that Albion Excelsior coach Jason Webb would want a few more of his troops to turn up for training this week ahead of hosting young and sharply improving Waiau Star at the Gore Showgrounds on Saturday.
- The Southland Times