Waikato premier club rugby final preview: Hamilton OB v Otorohanga
Hamilton Old Boys will host Otorohanga at FMG Stadium Waikato on Saturday in the final of the Waikato premier club rugby competition.
Jesse King and Ian Anderson had a chat to the respective head coaches this week and a look at the match-up.
Hamilton Old Boys:
Zac Guildford - Likely to start at fullback, the former All Black winger will be the most experienced player in the final at the highest level. Reads the game well from the back and is still a dangerous counter-attack weapon.
Adam Burn - An all-action No 8 who may play a key role both in the tight and the loose; firstly making tackles then getting up in support later. He's another who won't be intimidated by his surroundings, having represented Waikato regularly over the past five seasons.
Rupeni Tamani - The rangy lock will be relied upon for clean line-out ball and then expected to get around the field and make his trademark highlight breaks and offloads.
Sonivalati Ramuwa – The number 11 has proven a handful for opposition defenders all year and has scored six tries to make him the leading try-scorer in the second half of the competition. In worrying signs for Hamilton Old Boys, three of those tries were scored in games against them.
Te Hata Wilbore – He exhibits all of the qualities that make a great halfback - a quick distributor with a great sense of direction and the ability to adapt well to what he sees in front of him. Wilbore leads the way for points scored this season through his accurate goal-kicking and scoring four tries.
The front row – Whatever combination of Ted Tauroa, John Jackson, Frederico Wergzyn, Haereti Hetet and Villiame Seuseu hits the field this Saturday, they will make their presence felt. They have dominated their opposition in recent weeks and derailed Marist in the semifinal last weekend.
Previous results between the two teams this season:
On April 29 in round one, Otorohanga outscored Old Boys three tries to two at Island Reserve to win 22-16 and hand Old Boys just their second loss for the season.
Old Boys only lost once more all season - in the return fixture when Otorohanga travelled to Fred Jones Park and beat them 27-26.
WHAT THEY THINK
Hamilton Old Boys coach Mark McConnell
What he expects from Otorohanga:
"There's no secret how Otorohanga play - they're very abrasive, very tough. They come at you hard.
"They deliver in all those areas - their scrum's very good, their lineout's good, their drives are good, they've got some young fresh backs there now.
"It's not a surprise they got to the final. You could say they may have upset Marist, but at the same time there were a number of people out there saying it was going to happen.
"They don't have many weaknesses - they've got a good side, a good culture - so they'll be formidable."
On his likely line-up:
"We should have everyone available - everyone tends to forget their niggles when these kinds of games come around.
"We haven't had the greatest run with injuries this season - we lost three starting players to season-ending injuries, Andrew Ieremia, Jonty Rae and Anthony Coffey. The most obvious was Jonty, with his goal-kicking."
On how Old Boys will play:
"We're not going to do anything too different. We played well last week so want to replicate what we did there.
"We've been in this position enough times to know what the right formula is. It all comes down to your game on the day. It's finals rugby - we'll concentrate on what we're good at and keep hammering that home this week, what makes us a good side.
"There'll be nothing too different from what we've done this season; it'll just come with a different level of intensity on the day. These matches come down to obviously a few key moments and you have to take those when they arise.
"If you look at last year's final, we probably had a number of opportunities to secure that game, and we stuffed them up.
"We're pretty good across the park in terms of our ability and strengths, we've got a bit of youth with a bit of experience."
On where club rugby stands:
"The importance of it is very high.
"It differs from union to union varying on the relationship between the clubs and the unions - in Waikato, the relationship is very good. They open their reserves to the club if the clubs are willing to ask for help.
"[Waikato NPC coach] Sean [Botherway] and [assistant coach] Roger [Randle] have been past Waikato club coaches - they gear their programmes to support the clubs.
"The club competition is envied by other unions for how strong it is."
Otorohanga coach Jeremy Iti
On making the final:
"It feels great to be in the final, it's good for the guys and the hard work they put in all year and it would be the cherry on top to get the win."
On his team:
"I think a few people under-estimated us, they forgot the calibre of players we've got in our team, we've got a lot of guys who have played at the top and been in big finals before."
On number eight, Tallis Karaitiana:
"I just gave him a rest last weekend, he pulled up pretty sore after the Fraser Tech game, but he's straight back into it this weekend, we're all good, everyone's ready to roll.
On why he loves club rugby:
"It's not just about one team, or one set of guys, it's actually a whole bunch of people that make the clock tick.
From the people that peel the spuds, to the bar staff, all the cliché people you thank in the speeches after games – they're not just thanked for the sake of it, they're thanked because without them there is no club."
On the Breweries Shield:
"We want that big trophy back at our club and we've got a big enough bus, it will fit."