AIMAN AMERUL MUNER / Stuff
Little Celtic fans prepare for Saturday’s Hamersley Cup final where their side will face Waimate, left to right, Heleni Maea, 2, Kaahu Saunders, 6, Tevita Maea, 4, Dougie Wright, 4 and Colby Strachan, 3.
Rugby fever is spreading to South Canterbury, with huge crowds of supporters wearing their team colors expected to line the ground at Pleasant Point on Saturday to watch the Hamersley Cup final.
Waimate and Celtic will face off in the match, with representatives of both teams ‘excited’ for the final, and predicting a close as when the two teams last met three weeks ago Celtic beat Waimate 19-12.
Waimate has played for the Cup three times in the last five years but has not won the Hamersley Cup since 1995.
Meanwhile, Celtic lost the cup after a 10-year streak in 2018, when Temuka began their three-game winning streak, which Waimate ended in the semi-finals last Saturday.
* Harlequins at the top as Temuka overthrow in South Canterbury club rugby upset
* Waimate overthrows Harlequins in the Hamersley Cup
* Temuka is given the chance to defend South Canterbury’s senior club rugby title
The final will be played on neutral ground at Pleasant Point Rugby Club with wet conditions forcing the game from the Celtic grounds.
The people of Waimate support their team, businesses and early years centers in the city spending the week preparing for the game.
The Rural Scholars Early Learning Center held a Rugby Legends Day during the week, where members of the Waimate team played rugby drills with the children.
The centre’s teacher, Rosie Sakatava, said “many families in the community have a strong connection to the rugby club”.
“If your children play it [the club] or for some of our children, their father, uncles or family friends play it.
“We had planned a costume day on Wednesday, but because of the rain we closed, so people sent in costume photos.”
Waimate Rugby Club chairman Matt Hayman said the team were looking forward to Saturday’s game.
“It’s really exciting. It’s a big thing for us because it’s the third time in five years that we hope to bring it home,” Hayman said.
“We have two supporter buses accompanying our player bus, but I expect a lot of cars heading for Pleasant Point.”
He said they expected a high turnout for the game as Waimate and Celtic are long-standing “highly respected clubs” with a large following.
“I expect to see a lot of light blue on the embankment on Saturday.”
The rugby club also sold a large proportion of their old game shirts before the game as supporters’ equipment.
“We had 100 and sold most of them on Sunday last week, and we didn’t have many left to sell on Wednesday.”
Sarah Farrell, co-owner of Rainbow Dairy and Café, said staff decorated the store because they couldn’t go watch the game but wanted to show their support.
In Timaru, Celtic Rugby Club committee member Vaughan O’Shaughnessy said “there will be a sea of green around the pitch for this game”.
He said there were “potentially” a few players who would retire after the game, but he would not confirm who.
“We haven’t had the cup for three years so we can’t wait to bring it home,” he said.
The game will start at 3 p.m.
Celtic: Jarrad Mannex, Tom Bikaca, Zac Saunders, Natui Saumani Su’a, Paela Matakaiongo, Hayden Kerr, Willie Wright (captain), Apo Qata, Nick Strachan, Josh Mehrtens, Ben Kerry, Matt Stewart, Garret Casey, Connor Anderson, Graison Dale . Subs, Ash Martin, Viliame Logavatu, Aidan Pye, Jack Pratt, Willie Taylor, Sekpoe Maea, Sean Rhodes.
Waimate: Dan Patterson, Kurt Rooney, Ben Dyson, Miles Medlicott, Tenni Tafolo, Stefan Kloppers, Theo Davidson, Loni Toumohuni, Eafou Tagiaia (captain), Brody Gallagher, Anthony Amato, Henry Bryce, George Campbell, Kieran Byrne, Tokomaata Fakatava. Subs, Joeli Kotobalavu, Tim Caird, Josh O’Neill, Bailey Wikaira, Matt Hayman, William Saulala, Amorangi Goldsmith.
Hamersley Cup Final (Senior Grand Final): Celtic v Waimate, Pleasant Point No 1, 3pm kick-off. grand final): Celtic v Harlequins, Pleasant Point No 1, 12:30 p.m. Wood Cup Final (Senior Minor B Final): Old Boys v Geraldine, Pareora No 1, 12:45 p.m.