Heartland hopefuls battle tough week
Off-field issues will be playing heavily on the mind of two Heartland Championship heavy hitters this weekend as they head into a potentially crucial round of the competition.
Both East Coast, who last year claimed the Meads Cup, and South Canterbury have made headlines this week for all the wrong reasons and the negative impact on both squads will have to be left in the changing sheds when they take on their respective round four opponents tomorrow.
The East Coast union was this week fined $3000 and docked two competition points after the New Zealand Rugby Union panel found them guilty of breaching player eligibility rules.
Lock Everard Reid was listed as a local player in the East Coast squad, but it was revealed that he played for a Hawke's Bay club outside the time frame which would allow him to be classed as an East Coast local player.
The defending Meads Cup champions have a solitary win to show for their efforts so far, and the loss of two competition points will hit them hard.
They get a chance to regain some of those points this weekend when they travel to Westport to tackle Buller in a battle of the two trophy winners from last season.
Buller claimed the lower-tier Lochore Cup last season and, although their early season form has been patchy, their form on home turf over the 18 months has been unbeatable.
Over the other side of the Southern Alps, South Canterbury are fighting their own demons with two of their players involved in a police investigation following rape allegations during their trip to Whanganui last weekend.
The Timaru-based side will tomorrow play host to a potentially dangerous West Coast side who showed their true worth last weekend when comfortably disposing of Poverty Bay.
Current competition leaders Mid Canterbury will be looking to maintain their unbeaten season when they travel south to tackle North Otago in Oamaru.
After staging a comeback to beat Wairarapa Bush last week at home, tomorrow's match will be equally, if not more, important for the Glenn Moore-coached side if they are to make a real push for becoming Meads Cup champions for the first time in the Heartland Championship's history.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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