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University is talking up Pirates as the favourite to win today’s premier women’s final at Hancock Park.
The defending champion has a lot of fresh faces in its side and is up against a team with some very experienced campaigners.
And if you ask manager Terry Kerr, his side was a little lucky to slip past Alhambra-Union in the semifinal.
The game was locked 15-15 with a just a few minutes remaining at the University of Otago Oval on Saturday.
AU had an opportunity to clear the ball but elected to run it out from inside its 22. Hooker Amber-Jane McKenzie picked off an intercept and scored to help seal a place in the final with a tense 20-15 win.
"I personally think we were fortunate to get through," Kerr said.
"Obviously, AU are a pretty improved side across the course of the season ... and they would have been worthy of being in the final also.
"It has been a rebuilding season like we have never seen. Clearly [University] has been pretty dominant with three in a row and winning four out of the last five years.
"Last year’s side would have been one of the stronger sides for a decade I would have thought."
"But we’ve lost 75% of our players from last year. We’ve never had quite that amount of change."
Despite the staggering player turnover, University has put together a very decent side.
Otago Spirit lock Julia Gorinski has been a formidable presence in the pack, and Kerr believes the loose forward trio of Bree-anna Thomas, Leah Miles and Grace Carroll are the best in the competition.
There is some talent in the midfield in the form of Keely Hill and Lourdes Faifua.
First-five and captain Hinemoa Watene picked up a knee injury early in the season and was a big loss.
"[And] when you lose players like Trisha Hopcroft, Meg Breen, Meg Timu, Rosie Kelly, Amy du Plessis, it’s hard.
"We had two-thirds of the Spirit [team] last year. But it is probably a good thing for the competition."
Historically, University has dominated the competition.
But Pirates have stronger form leading into the final. They beat Clutha Valley 38-32 in the other semifinal.
They did make a slow start to the season, with losses to Clutha Valley and Alhambra-Union.
But the club has strung together nine consecutive wins, including two wins against University — a 37-33 victory in early May and a comfortable 52-26 win earlier this month.
Black Fern Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali is at first-five with experience midfielder Kilisitina Moata’ane and fullback Sheree Hume completing a dangerous trio.
There is power up front as well.
"That is certainly their strength and they will play to it. We know what they will bring and they know we are expansive, so there are no real secrets," Kerr said.
"It is actually pretty simple, really. When we match their physicality we win and when we don't, we don’t."