Te Awamutu Sports host Otorohanga as relegation could be decided in Waikato club rugby
Relegation could be decided in round eight of Waikato premier club rugby on Saturday.
If eighth-placed United Matamata Sports (on eight points) secure a bonus point victory over University at Bedford Park, then defeats for either Te Awamutu Sports or Southern United would see them relegated to division one with one week of the first round to spare.
So Te Awamutu, 9th on seven points, and Southern, 10th on six points, need wins to boost their survival hopes in the premier competition's new format, where the bottom two clubs drop out after nine rounds and the remaining eight restart on zero points.
Te Awamutu host Otorohanga at Albert Park seeking a first victory since round one, while Southern welcome Fraser Tech to Tokoroa.
Otorohanga are the competition's form team after rising to third with three successive wins over Southern, Tech and Hamilton Old Boys, which makes Te Awamutu's task all the more daunting after losing their last six matches.
But they've crucially secured three bonus points in those defeats due to losing by seven points or less.
Te Awamutu coach Maxie Kemara said their confidence wasn't an issue, as Evaan Reihana, son of former All Blacks utility Bruce, returns at fullback after three weeks out because of concussion.
"We have a strong belief that whoever we're playing, we are not only good enough to match them but beat them," he said.
"We've been stung with injuries and individual errors. It's been frustrating. We're so close but at the same time, I suppose we're still so far away.
"There are a lot of positives: local players on board and an outstanding culture among the boys."
Te Awamutu have lost fullback Josh Moorby for three weeks after suffering a concussion knock in last week's 27-20 loss at University.
Kemara said Moorby, playing his first year of club rugby out of Hamilton Boys' High School, has been outstanding but he'll miss the deciding final weeks of the first round with Te Awamutu travel to Tech next Saturday, while Matamata and Southern head to Otorohanga and Old Boys respectively.
Former Waikato loose forward, club captain and stalwart Jono Armstrong is leading Te Awamutu's quest for survival as the hinges on the relegation trap door creak louder and louder.
The competition's leading teams, Hautapu and Old Boys, clash at Memorial Park in Cambridge after both losing last week, while Hamilton Marist host defending champions Melville.
AT A GLANCE
Waikato premier club rugby, Rd 8. All games at 2:45pm.
Hamilton Marist v Melville at Marist Park, Hamilton; Hautapu v Hamilton Old Boys at Memorial Park, Cambridge; Southern United v Fraser Tech at Tokoroa Memorial Sports Ground, Tokoroa; Te Awamutu Sports v Otorohanga at Albert Park, Te Awamutu; United Matamata Sports v University at Bedford Park, Matamata.