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In a week when Christchurch has hosted our national rugby and football teams, it's little wonder Canterbury's NPC semifinal against Taranaki is not making many headlines down south.
Tina, the taxi driver, did not know the game was on but did her best to make out she knew where Taranaki was.
Motelier Mike Small needed no prompting to pull up his sleeve and reveal a couple of red and black wristbands after politely being asked if he thought Taranaki's challenge was up to much.
"There is only two colours to worry about down here, mate," he said.
In a city that measures its rugby success on the exploits of the Crusaders, the Canterbury team, no matter how steeped in tradition, well and truly plays second fiddle.
There is at least a marketing campaign to promote the red and blacks.
It reads: "Support our team's strive for 5".
Nothing more is needed, the people down here have come to expect rugby titles, no matter what the competition their team is involved in.
They are complacent about Taranaki's attempt to "make it four and no more" and you can't help but get the feeling most will be saving their pennies until the final next week.
It's a lonely place to be a Taranaki supporter.
Our numbers are few. No charter plane full of amber and black-clad fans have made this trip.
As Taranaki Rugby marketing executive Nikita Hall said yesterday: "Everyone just expects Canterbury to win."
At least the Taranaki players cannot be accused of sleeping in on the job, after they flew out of New Plymouth at 7am yesterday.
Those of us who left at a more civilised time were heartened by the sight of Lynette Cooper, wife of coach Colin, boarding NZ8839 with her message.
"I'm the good luck charm," she explained. "I went to Invercargill last year when we won the Ranfurly Shield, so I thought it would be worth going to this game too."
By the time Mrs Cooper had landed, Colin was taking his side through their final paces at a captain's run at AMI Stadium.
Closed to the public and the press, the team spent an hour presumably fine-tuning a master plan to take down Canterbury.
The veteran coach has picked up on the fact that Taranaki as a province has hardly made a song and dance about his team making the semifinals, despite a 12-year gap between appearances.
"I remember in 2000 when we beat Counties to make the semis, there was just massive excitement because the expectation was just not there," he said.
"We are expected to be there now. Three years ago we just wanted to be in the top division, now that's not good enough.
"But it is 12 years since we've been here, so it's up to us to get really excited."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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