Top qualifying clubs rewarded by hosting semifinals

Neutral club fans will have to choose between a trip to Mosgiel or a wander down to the University of Otago Oval this Saturday.

The premier grade semifinals are being hosted by the top qualifying clubs this season rather than being staged at the one venue.

University topped the standings and will host Kaikorai, which slipped into fourth place with a late run.

That match may have to be shifted from the University Oval No1 ground though.

Representatives from the Otago Rugby Football Union, the Dunedin City Council and the Metropolitan Rugby Council will meet at the venue today to assess its suitability.

Last season the semifinals had to be shifted from the University Oval to Hancock Park. The cricket pitch block had turned into a boggy mess and the surface was ruled unfit for play.

In the other semifinal, Taieri, which finished in second place, hosts Harbour at Peter Johnstone Park.

Otago Rugby Football Union community rugby manager Richard Perkins said the decision to shift from one venue to home venues for the semifinals was made after consultation with the clubs.

''Part of the ... review last season centred around creating an atmosphere at clubrooms,'' Perkins wrote.

''By having semifinals at the top qualifiers' home ground [it] rewards the top two teams for their hard work and also builds full clubrooms after the game.''

Both semifinals shape as interesting encounters.

Kaikorai looked too far back after the opening round but clawed its way back, winning six of its last seven round-robin games to seal a playoff appearance.

The Demons impressed last weekend with a comprehensive 48-21 against Harbour.

The Hawks, though, were missing most of their starting tight five.

University had a bye in the last round so it will be fresh. The students will be confident as well, having won both round-robin games against Kaikorai this season.

The club dropped just three games during the round robin but recent memory will help keep complacency from the door.

University was the hot favourite to win in 2016 but was bundled out in the semifinals by Kaikorai, which went on to win the title.

Taieri and Harbour have both been decimated by the departure of the Otago-contracted players.

Harbour has leant heavily on its robust forward pack to pave the way but with Joketani Koroi, Sione Misiloi and Sekonaia Pole missing, the pack is missing some beef and the Hawks will need to adapt their game plan.

Taieri will look to exploit its pace and ability out wide, particularly in the second half when fatigue sets in and players such as Josh Casey and Matt Whaanga start finding gaps.

The teams drew 14-14 at Watson Park in April but Harbour was a convincing winner at Peter Johnstone Park in June.

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