Injured Highlanders fullback Ben Smith is surrounded by
hundreds of excited rugby fans at Queenstown Primary School
yesterday afternoon before the pre-season match against the
Blues, in Queenstown. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.
The Super 15 season gets under way this weekend, and
rugby fever came to Queenstown yesterday, when the Highlanders
hit the resort for their last pre-season match.
Queenstown embraced the event, with a vocal crowd of more
than 4000 spectators attending.
The crowd was filled largely with families at the earlier
hour of 5.30pm, and showed great support when the Highlanders
had the ball in hand and looked likely to be in for the win
throughout the second half.
The Blues took the match from the home side in the last
minute with a penalty 40m in front of the posts, winning
If disappointed with the result, the younger fans did not
show it as they mobbed the players on the paddock after the
final whistle. Most popular with were Highlanders Brad Thorn,
Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear and former captain Jamie Mackintosh.
Earlier in the afternoon, injured Highlanders fullback Ben
Smith visited Queenstown Primary School to promote the team
and the beginning of a highly anticipated season.
Smith stood in front of the school of about 600 pupils to
answer questions about why he became a rugby player, what he
does apart from rugby, the hardest team he has played and his
favourite All Black friend.
His answers, for the record, were he was introduced to rugby
as his brother's tackle-bag, he plays golf when he can, the
Crusaders ''when they're on fire'' and Aaron Smith, ''but
we're all good mates''.
Smith, who is in his fifth year with the Highlanders, advised
the children to give every sport a go before pursuing just
one and said he hoped for a successful Super 15 season under
coach Jamie Joseph.