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Southland club rugby representatives will meet in Invercargill tonight to talk through what is expected to be the biggest shake-up of the premier competition in many years.
During the off-season, the Southland club rugby community has been discussing the future of the premier and division one competitions with a push to look at what was in the best interests of Southland rugby in its entirety.
There was a desire to help provide better pathways in Southland, as well as to deliver a competition which appealed to the region’s players.
This year’s division one champion, Wyndham, had publicly stated it wanted to make the jump up to the premier competition next year, after the players had indicated a desire to test themselves at the next level.
However, it seems Wyndham will not be the only division one team in the Galbraith Shield race next year, with an expanded 12 team top flight competition the preferred option with many.
It would see this year’s six premier teams join the leading six division one teams in a new combined format.
The six division one teams from this year were: Wyndham, Midlands, Edendale, Waikaka, Riversdale, and Te Anau.
The proposal would see the 12 teams split into two pools of six.
For the first five weeks of the season, teams would play other teams in their pool.
The top six teams on points would then progress to the Galbraith Shield competition, playing a home and away format before semifinals and finals.
The bottom six teams after the initial five weeks of the season would playoff for the Ack Soper Shield under the same format as the Galbraith Shield competition.
The clubs will have another opportunity to talk through the proposal tonight before the Rugby Southland Advisory Council is expected to ratify the new format at its next meeting.
With the combined premier/division one proposal well advanced, the focus would switch to working through the makeup of the division two, three, and president grade competitions next year.
Possible options have been circulated for the clubs to get their head around before deciding on a preferred option.
Meanwhile, the Southland men’s sevens team delivered an impressive showing in Oamaru on Saturday as its encouraging build-up to the South Island regional qualifiers continues.
Southland travelled to Oamaru to take part in a tournament which featured teams from throughout the lower South Island.
The Dan Cavanagh-coached Southland team won four of their five games at the tournament.
They beat Otago Gold 17-5 in the semifinal before losing to Otago Blue in the final.
The focus would now switch to the South Island qualifying tournament on December 1, with the target to play in the nationals in Tauranga on December 15 and 16.