Longtime Baywide rivals face offSave
By Peter White
Every match-up between traditional rivals Rangataua Sports and Te Puna has plenty of meaning - with much mana at stake.
A glance through the team lists reveals the same traditional family names that have been the cornerstone of both clubs for generations.
The Bidois and Kuka names are there as always for Te Puna, with the latest members of the Gardiner and Ririnui whanau lacing up their boots for Rangataua.
It is a vital part of what makes grassroots club rugby so special, with enthusiastic sideline support from multiple generations of supporters.
Both clubs are having seasons with tomorrow's encounter at Rangataua's Te Ariki Park set to showcase their attacking abilities.
Te Puna are top of the table with two rounds to go before the championship top eight begins. Defending champions Rangataua are one of four teams in fifth equal place, five points clear of Paroa, who are just outside the eight.
Te Puna coach Aidan Kuka, who played more than 300 games in the black and blue Te Puna jersey, says last year's loss at te same venue as tomorrow's clash is a major motivation.
"On their way to the Baywide Premiership last year, Rangataua gave us a good hiding at Te Ariki Park. This is still very fresh in the minds of our whole rugby community," he said.
"There is a huge emphasis to rise up for this battle as there are no bigger games for us than a Te Puna v Rangataua game.
"Rangataua are strong across the park and have threats everywhere. They are the masters of broken play and can score from anywhere, but they also play with shape and have a well-structured forward pack."
John O'Loan is in his first season as Rangataua head coach, with former Steamers lock John Moore as his assistant.
O'Loan rates Te Puna as "by far the best team in the competition at the moment".
"They have a strong tight five with match winners all through the backs. However, the real strength is they have a winning combination and a winning attitude. Winning is a habit so we must break that habit."
Rangataua return home in need of a win following a loss on the road to Rotoiti last Saturday.
"It is just important that we get through this round in a position that we are confident enough to retain the title," O'Loan said.
"We will be limiting our mistakes and working on how we manage the 80 minutes."
In other Premier games tomorrow, second-placed Tauranga Sports will have another easy romp away to winless Whakatane Marist after their 85-0 win over Poroporo. It is probably the last thing Tauranga want so close to the championship round.
The clash between Te Puke Sports and Rotoiti in Te Puke should be an even tussle. Te Puke lost a thriller 42-41 away to Whakarewarewa last weekend, while Rotoiti toppled Rangataua 23-15.
Arataki host Greerton Marist at Arataki Park in another game that could go down to the wire, while Paroa need to beat Mount Maunganui Sports at Lawson Park to keep their top- eight aspirations alive. Cellar-dwellers Poroporo are home to Whakarewarewa.
Baywide Premier and Premier Development Draw:
Saturday, Premier kick-off 2.45pm, Development 1pm
Paroa v Mount Maunganui Sports at Lawson Park
Arataki v Greerton Marist at Arataki Park
Poroporo v Whakarewarewa at Poroporo Park
Te Puke Sports v Rotoiti at Murray Salt Stadium
Whakatane Marist v Tauranga Sports at Rugby Park
Baywide Division 1
Waimana v Judea at Waimana Domain
Marist St Michael's v Ruatoki at Marist Park
Ngongotaha v Katikati at Ngongotaha Domain
Te Teko v Kahukura at Dunderdale Park
Rangiuru v Waikite at Centennial Park
Papamoa v Opotiki at Gordon Spratt Reserve
Saturday kick-off 1pm
Te Whanau Apanui v Rangiuru at Te Kura Mana Maori o Whangaparoa
Sunday kick-off 1pm
Waikite v Rangataua at Bellvue Rd
Rotoiti v Waimana at Emery Park
Whakarewarewa - Bye