Shield has fans fizzing

The Rams and their supporters are said to be champing at the bit ahead of King Country’s Ranfurly Shield game against Hawkes Bay next Wednesday (June 26).

King Country has made 19 challenges for the Ranfurly Shield over the years without success but having come close at times, going down to Taranaki in a hard-fought game 15-11 in 1958.

Pass it on… King Country challenge for the Ranfurly Shield next week. Last time out Josevata Malimole was pictured in action during a 43-18 win over Thames Valley.  

Interim King Country Rugby Union general manager Josh Standen said the big game at Mitre 10 Stadium, Hastings, was the kind of event players and supporters were determined to make the most of.

“We’re stoked, because opportunities like this don’t come along often.

“The Rams play in the Heartland Competition while the Magpies played in the NPC. So for us the Shield is something floating around out there in NPC land. The excitement of actually challenging for it is probably going to reach fever pitch in coming days.”

Standen said the players wanted to be well prepared. They had been training hard and playing well, including the good win against Thames Valley last month.

“That has put them in a good space. We’re still in the middle of club rugby at the moment and heading into a final. They’ll be rugby hardened with four days left to recover ahead of the challenge. But there won’t be much motivation needed to get up for it.”

Meanwhile, general excitement is also building among supporters, who are still riding the wave of their team’s victory over Thames Valley.

King Country Supporters Club president Ryan Gulbransen said a bus was to leave for Hastings from Taupō i-site at 10 am on Wednesday.

“And a lot of additional vehicles are travelling over. We’ve heard from lots of people who are taking car or van-loads of supporters, carrying four-to-10 people.

“We will be hosted to a pre match lunch by Saracens Rugby Hawke’s Bay, which is only six-minutes-drive from the grounds.

“It’s sort of going back to the old school days of inter-island tours and events. The shield is a big game and I always love the fact that we get a chance to throw our weight against the top guns of New Zealand rugby.

“It’s hard logistically. King Country is a massive rugby union covering a huge area.

“We haven’t head from Taumarunui supporters but to be fair it’s hard for people there working on the land to take a day off work.

“We have managed to get a mini-van to bring Te Kūiti supporters over to join the bus in Taupō.”

But couldn’t it all end up in a big defeat?

“Well it might not. Anything can happen in Shield rugby. If we look back to what happened a couple of years ago Thames Valley really pushed then holders Otago… Thames Valley were leading at half time.

Anything can happen.”


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