Rugby rivalry is all in the family

Mum and Dad  Tracy and Dave Willetts, who are Highlanders supporters, face off against  sons Sean (11, left) and Michael (15), who support the Crusaders,  at  the pre-season game between the two Super 15 sides in Oamaru yesterday.
Mum and Dad Tracy and Dave Willetts, who are Highlanders supporters, face off against sons Sean (11, left) and Michael (15), who support the Crusaders, at the pre-season game between the two Super 15 sides in Oamaru yesterday.

You could call it a house divided - on one side Mum and Dad supporting the Highlanders and on the other their two sons, who are Crusaders supporters.

Tracy and Dave Willetts are the Highlanders supporters, respectively migrants from the West Coast and Otago - Oamaru in fact - to Christchurch.

Sean (11) and Michael (15) are Christchurch-born, so their loyalty lies with the Crusaders.

All this makes for some competitive times in the rugby season, although the two sons' favourite was on the receiving end of a 38-21 beating in the pre-season match at Whitestone Contracting Stadium in Oamaru yesterday afternoon.

Mrs Willetts said the family tries to get to as many Crusaders matches as possible, particularly against the Highlanders, whether in Christchurch or Dunedin.

While Mr Willetts is a born and bred Highlanders fan, he said his wife was a ''fence-sitter'', from the West Coast but supported the southern team.

The family was among about 5000 rugby fans who turned out to the match, with about half staying on for the Bog Rocks Music Festival afterwards.

Among those at the match were 83 pupils from Waihi boarding school at Winchester - virtually all the pupils.

Only four were unable to attend.

The first weekend after school starts all pupils stay at school, so the chance for them to come to Oamaru - all on one double-decker bus - was too good to miss.

Their support was pretty evenly divided, with a good representation of pupils from Otago and Southland to balance out the Cantabrians.

The stadium oval was a colourful sight, not only with many of the crowd dressing or waving flags for their sides, but also with about 30 corporate tents spread along the west side of the ground.

The atmosphere was further improved by letting the crowd on to the southern and western ends of the ground, close to the action.

- david.bruce@odt.co.nz