Canterbury game a yardstick for Whalers

If tomorrow goes well the buffer the Otago Whalers have earned will be irrelevant. If it does not, at least it is there to fall back on.

The Whalers have to stay within 61 points of the Canterbury Bulls in Christchurch today to secure a playoff spot in the national rugby league competition.

They enter the game in a three-way tie with Southland and West Coast — which have both completed their southern zone campaigns.

Otago’s 56-4 win over West Coast last week leaves it 62 points ahead of Southland on points differential.

But that is not the approach the Whalers are taking.

Not only do they want to qualify for the playoffs — against the top two North Island teams — they want to qualify top.

That means beating a qualityCanterbury, which in a normal year plays in the division above Otago, for the first time since the mid-2000s.

‘‘The points differential thing doesn’t worry us,’’ Whalers coach David Reedy said.

‘‘We’re just going to try to win the game. If we go down in a blaze of glory, so be it.’’

‘‘It’s on TV, so it’s a little bit different for some of the boys.

‘‘Most of the boys in the Canterbury team have played TV games, whether it be the South Island under-20s or the Bulls previously. The only time we play on TV is when we make the national final.

‘‘There will be plenty of friends and family keen to watch the boys. The Canterbury Bulls are the benchmark in the South Island.

‘‘We have aspirations to one day play in the premiership, and playing a premiership team is a good test of where we’re at and what needs to happen.’’

Reedy had kept things light at training on Tuesday.

The team had focused on fun, before ramping up on Thursday, in an effort to take the tension out of the big game.

Reedy expected a stronger Canterbury team than the one which played Southland last weekend.

It would likely have all its players available and be keen to rectify its last error-ridden performance.

Despite that he felt Otago could compete — it would just have to be clinical.

‘‘It’s going to come down to us, we still made a few errors last Saturday that we won’t get away with against the Bulls.

‘‘It’ll be our ball control if we can get our even share of possession and set completions we’ll be real competitive and give it a good shot.’’

The game kicks off at 2pm.

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