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KIRSTY MCMURRAY
Last updated 05:00 03/10/2012
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ANDY JACKSON
Jamison Gibson-Park shows off the Shield after the Manawatu game

General Matters - Episode five

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Taranaki rugby is putting out one last call to arms to help the team lug the Log o' Wood over the Waikato-shaped final hurdle tonight and secure another summer with the shield.

This evening Tenderlink Taranaki will take on Waikato at Yarrow Stadium in the defining Ranfurly Shield challenge of the year and Taranaki Rugby commercial manager Geoff Hitchcock said it would be the last chance for fans to get out and show their Shield support.

"The team really thrives on the support of the crowd. This is the final callup for Taranaki supporters and then the Shield can spend the summer doing the rounds of businesses and schools and hospitals and all that again."

He said people getting behind the team was more important than ever for what promised to be a hard match.

"We think Waikato will be tough. They've definitely got some talent so we need to be at the top of our game."

Taranaki captain Craig Clarke said he would be mightily proud of his squad if they managed to hold on to the Shield for another summer, especially after so many pundits did not rate their chances of doing so.

"It would be obviously pretty satisfying to know we just haven't kept it for a couple of games and lost it to a big-four team.

"We've repelled Canterbury and a couple of other teams who were really passionate, like Tasman and Hawke's Bay. We have talked about our home record in recent seasons and it is pretty sharp. We've only dropped two games in the last three years, so all those things combined add to our motivation.

"But we're looking at a Waikato team that is going to be very physical and we are going to have to pick them apart."

Taranaki will also be fighting to keep the Ryan Wheeler Memorial trophy, won in Hamilton last year.

There will be plenty of pre-match fun to warm up the crowd, too, with a Taranaki Women's Sevens Squad game and entertainment by Ash and Aiden.

Mr Hitchcock said tickets had been selling well and 10,000 to 12,000 people were expected.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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