Serving up smorgasbord of sport

Lydia Ko and caddie. Photo supplied.
Lydia Ko and caddie. Photo supplied.
Prepare for an unprecedented few weeks in Otago. The Mecca of New Zealand sport is hosting a remarkable range of events between now and the end of March. The Otago Daily Times sports department offers this handy guide.

RUGBY
Highlanders chase Super 15 glory
Forsyth Barr Stadium
Home games: v Chiefs (tonight), v Hurricanes (March 15), v Reds (Good Friday)

Why it's exciting: The defending champions are coming to town tonight to take on our boys in the first of three rippers to start the season. The Chiefs are high on confidence after last season's success and have some exciting players. In the middle of March, the always flashy Hurricanes arrive and will be throwing the ball around. Then, on Good Friday, everyone's favourite expatriate, Quade Cooper, and the Reds come to the stadium for their first trip to Dunedin in six years. Maximum effort to give Quade a nice welcome to the city, please.

Three Highlanders to watch.-
Ma'a Nonu: Has looked keen in the build-up and ready to explode in the midfield.

Hosea Gear: Wears the captain's armband tonight and looking for a big season.

John Hardie: Planning for a big year after last season was ruined by injury.

What we think will happen: The Chiefs will score a try in the opening minutes but the home side will come back to win. Just. The Hurricanes will start slowly and a couple of Nonu breaks will give the Highlanders a comfortable halftime lead. The Highlanders will hold off the fast-finishing Canes. And Quade? He'll be a mixed bag and will throw a couple of great passes. But the home side will win the game through a strong display by its forward pack.

RUGBY LEAGUE
Warriors v Broncos
Forsyth Barr Stadium
Tomorrow, 7.30pm

Why it's exciting: The only reason you need is that it's the first time the Warriors have played in Dunedin. With respect to the mighty Otago Whalers, we don't see much top league this far south.

Warrior to watch: The big bad Beast, bullocking winger Manu Vatuvei. Who's the best winger on display this weekend: Vatuvei or Hosea Gear?

Bronco to watch: Prop Josh McGuire. The AAP season preview described him as a ''firebrand''. Which we think it means he likes a stoush.

What we think will happen: It will be half an hour before the fans in the Glasshouse realise there is no pushing in the scrums. The scoreboard operators will also need to be reminded it is four points, not five, for a try. Shaun Johnson will play well for the Warriors but the Broncos will nick a 34-26 win.

GOLF
New Zealand PGA Championship
The Hills, Arrowtown
February 28-March 3

Why it's exciting: Two words: Lydia. Ko.

Three to watch. -
Lydia Ko (New Zealand): Well, duh. The mere fact a 15-year-old schoolgirl is the No 1 attraction at a major golf tournament is reason enough to have a look.

Jake Higginbotham (Australia): Won the New Zealand Open last year as an amateur and is now in the professional ranks.

Hale Irwin (United States): Just a tad past his prime but the three-time US Open champion is one of the better 67-year-old golfers you will see.

What we think will happen: Ko will attract 97% of the crowd and will shoot the best score by a ''celebrity''. Sir Ian Botham will tell the yappy halfbacks (Gregan, Marshall, Farr-Jones) to shut up. And Mark Brown will win the tournament by a stroke.

All Whites striker Chris Wood lunges for the ball during the game against Italy at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Photo by The New Zealand Herald.
All Whites striker Chris Wood lunges for the ball during the game against Italy at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Photo by The New Zealand Herald.
FOOTBALL
Phoenix v Heart
Forsyth Barr Stadium
Sunday, March 3

Why it's exciting: Look, the Phoenix might be having a terrible season. But it's still the only professional football team we have. And, er, the uniform looks nice.

Phoenix player to watch: Jeremy Brockie. The All Whites forward is the only reliable goal-scorer in the team.

Heart player to watch: Fred. If he plays. The Brazilian with the old-fashioned English name can make things happen.

What we think will happen: Gareth Morgan will host some sort of ritual involving a cat at halftime. The game will finish 2-2.

The crowd during the test between New Zealand and Pakistan at the University Oval in 2009. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
The crowd during the test between New Zealand and Pakistan at the University Oval in 2009. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
CRICKET
Black Caps v England first test
University Oval
March 6-10

Why it's exciting: The prospect of watching the world No 2 test team cut down to size by the mighty Black Caps in our own backyard is too good an opportunity to miss.

New Zealander to watch: Baz. South Dunedin's finest. Brendon McCullum honed his craft in the backyard of the family's Waterloo St home.

Englishman to watch: Any of the talented South Africans.

What we think will happen: There will be lots of singing, drinking and eating and at least one streaker - probably male and in his first year of university. There might even be some time to watch a bit of the cricket.

FOOTBALL
World Cup qualifier
All Whites v New Caledonia
Forsyth Barr Stadium
Friday, March 22

Why it's exciting: It's the All Whites! Back in Dunedin for the first time since 1988. And they're on the road to Brazil.

All White to watch: Ryan Nels ... oh, hang on. A tie between Winston Reid, the classy West Ham defender, and big Chris Wood, the striker who can't stop scoring in England.

New Caledonian to watch: Georges Gope-Fenepej. Has 15 goals in 16 games for his country. Scored in the shock win over the All Whites last year.

What we think will happen: A crowd of 20,000 will show up, the chants will echo off the roof, and the All Whites will win 3-1.

Other events to look out for before winter: Godzone adventure race (March 8-16), Motatapu (March 9), New Zealand marching championships (March 15-16), Goldrush (March 23-25), Southern Steel's first home game (April 6), Otago Nuggets' first home game (April 20).