Extended pre-season starts tomorrow

Alhambra-Union centre Rutu Bishop tackles Harbour centre Sala Halaleva at the North Ground last...
Alhambra-Union centre Rutu Bishop tackles Harbour centre Sala Halaleva at the North Ground last year. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Real rugby gets under way next month.

The extended pre-season, however, starts tomorrow.

No need to look confused.

Premier rugby is getting under way this weekend.

But for the first five Saturdays the nine premier teams will be competing for the Speight’s Jug.

When was the last time you saw a photo of someone holding aloft that trophy?

Never, right. That is because there is only one trophy which really counts.

It is the one you collect at the end of season if you are lucky.

And none of the points accumulated during the next five weeks will count towards that.

There were high-level discussions had about whether those points should be carried through but the clubs decided against it.

So there we are. The next five weeks are pretty much a glorified pre-season.

Taieri lock Brodie Hume is grabbed by Alhambra-Union front rower Alex Frood at the North Ground...
Taieri lock Brodie Hume is grabbed by Alhambra-Union front rower Alex Frood at the North Ground last year. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
It would not matter much except it puts the squeeze on the playing calendar. The playoffs get under way on July 17 and the Otago players will not be lining up that day as they begin preparations for the representative season.

That means they will also miss playing the semifinals on July 24 and final on July 31 although there is the off-chance some players may get a run for their club teams.

If the Speight’s Jug round was shifted to the end of the season, then the best players would be available at the business end of the tournament.

Of course, it is easier to pull out of a meaningless tournament at the end of the season than at the start which would have been a consideration.

But why would the clubs pull out? It would be a good opportunity to blood players and begin building towards next season.

And the whole point of playing for those five weeks is to get a few more people through the clubrooms.

There are no easy answers. But the decision not to return to two full rounds was sound.

There did not seem to be any appetite to return to pre-Covid days.

However, the Dunedin metropolitan council of rugby clubs has signalled it will put out a questionnaire at the end of the season.

It needs more data to find out what the rugby community thinks about the appropriate length of a season.

In the meantime, Taieri and University will get their season under way at Logan Park in a rematch of last year’s final.

University has lost some firepower whereas Taieri has the bulk of its 2020 side back.

Harbour will host Southern at Watson Park.

Both those sides were eliminated in the semifinals last year, so that shapes as an interesting encounter.

Dunedin is at home to Kaikorai and Green Island will host Alhambra-Union.

Zingari-Richmond has the bye.

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