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Heading into the fourth and penultimate weekend of the Southland premier club rugby experiment, you would have to say it is ticking the boxes of most participants. The six premier division teams from last season were joined by the top six division one teams, and it appears 10 of the twelve teams are thoroughly enjoying the change-up.
There are two pools of six teams that play each other once, and then the top three from each pool will go on to contest the Galbraith Shield.
Traditional premier teams Marist and the Eastern Northern Barbarians are already safely qualified from Pool A, while Woodlands is in third position, but is not likely to improve its position with the two higher-ranked clubs still to play.
Midlands is poised to pounce, with a winnable game to play at Edendale on Saturday and then one against Te Anau the following week. Edendale will be desperate to bounce back to form after a disappointing 28-24 loss in Te Anau last week.
Reigning champion Marist is unbeaten this season after beating the Barbarians 27-26 last week in Gore.
Marist should get an easier time of it tomorrow on its home ground against Woodlands. Woodlands recorded narrow wins over Edendale and Te Anau, but was beaten by Midlands last week 14-5.
Te Anau has another home game this week against the Barbarians, while Pirates Old Boys will need an improved performance if it is to beat Wyndham at Surrey Park.
In pool B, Invercargill heavyweight clubs Star and Blues are already safely qualified for the next round. These unbeaten teams will square off on Saturday at Waverley Park. Pirates Old Boys is in third position, but Wyndham can take that spot if it can beat Pirates on Saturday and Riversdale the following week. Riversdale and Waikaka are firmly out of contention and will play each other in Waikaka tomorrow.
The eight teams in the division one competition appear to be evenly matched. Wakatipu will host a Waikiwi team coming off a 20-15 win against Albion Excelsior last week.
Albion heads to Mossburn for another tough assignment. Blues B will test its depth at Tuatapere against Waiau Star.
Blowout scores have been the story of the first two weeks of the division two competition.
There are 13 teams in the division, which creates a bye.
The six games this week are likely to be more evenly contested. The feature game will be between Drummond Limehills Star and Balfour at Limehills on Friday night. Both teams put big scores on Collegiate during the first two weeks of competition.
The Bluff and Mataura match on Saturday will also provide plenty of interest.
- John Langford