Chiefs' pre-season match a sellout

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 14:58 12/02/2013
Chiefs Super Rugby
Murray Wilson/Fairfax NZ

Neil Symonds and Nick Rogers on the recently erected grandstand ready for the game on Saturday.

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All 7762 tickets for the Chiefs' pre-season match at Mangatainoka have been sold, just in time for a Tararua farmer to transform his paddock into a professional rugby ground.

The former home of the Mangatainoka Rugby Club will host thousands of fans for this Saturday's pre-season Super 15 encounter between the Hurricanes and the Chiefs.

Farmer Neil ''Skin'' Symonds said he could not wait to welcome an influx of rugby-mad fans to the small Tararua settlement.

When they come up the drive and if they haven't been here before, they can't believe what they see.

''It's great having people come along... we're wanting it to be a professionally run event with a rural, grassroots feel.''

He has spent months preparing the pasture for its annual metamorphosis into a patch worthy to host high-level rugby.

To ensure the grass is green and ready to go for this weekend's face-off, he has moved sheep, watered, rolled and mowed the field to perfection.

As a devoted Hurricanes fan - he has been a season ticket holder since the team's inception in the mid-1990s - Mr Symonds said the hours spent toiling were worth it to see quality rugby in his backyard.

When questioned about where the water to keep the field's lush look came from, especially during district-wide water restrictions, Mr Symonds gestured to a lake out the back while joking it was from the brewery's runoff.

''If that was the case, the ruck would go down and wouldn't come up,'' he said.

Tui commercial manager Nick Rogers said preparations were three or four days ahead of schedule for the biggest date on the Mangatainoka social calendar.

More than 1000 square metres of marquees have been put up, 5000 bucket seats and scaffolding installed, another 3000 bench seats set up and 120 port-a-loos in place already.

Part of the event's popularity and appeal was its ''pop-up nature'', Mr Rogers said.

''It's here now and gone tomorrow... They're [rugby fans] coming for something different, for a little bit of fun and to see some top quality footy, and people in our area love their footy, this game puts little Mangatainoka - a town of 137 or so - on the map.''

The brewery also hosted the Classic Hits Winery Tour on Sunday.

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