Spirit’s first match may be outside city

The Otago Spirit will have its first couple of games at home, but it may have to play away from Dunedin in its opening game of the season.

The draw for the Farah Palmer Cup was released this week, although actual match venues and times for many of the games have yet to be confirmed.

Taranaki has entered a team this season, which will bring 12 teams into the competition.

The competition is again split into a premiership and championship. Otago made the championship final last year before losing to Bay of Plenty.

The side opens its six match schedule with a match against North Harbour on September 1, but where it will be played is still undecided.

The Pink concert is scheduled for Forsyth Barr Stadium that night, so the Spirit will not play there. But that is not the biggest obstacle in playing the game in Dunedin — it is the lack of accommodation in the city.

The game may be moved to Balclutha. North Harbour is set to stay in Invercargill on the Friday night.

With many of the side having links to South Otago it may be a good move for Otago to venture south for its opening game.

Otago’s other home games are against Hawke’s Bay and premiership team Counties-Manukau. It will play Wellington, Taranaki and Tasman away.

New Spirit coach Scott Manson has been training a group of players and will name a squad, likely to be about 28, some time next month.

He was looking at bringing in a couple of players from Southland — which does not have a team — and said he had good numbers at training.

Last year’s Spirit captain, Angie Sisifa, has moved to Canterbury and is a big loss, but most of the players from last year will be back again.

Manson said the side will be quick and has some skilful players. He will be assisted in coaching by Karina Nafatali and Jamie Angus.

The Spirit has managed to organise a warm-up match with a game of three halves against both Tasman and Canterbury in Christchurch on August 18.

Former Otago first five-eighth John Haggart has been appointed the new assistant coach of the Black Ferns. He has returned from France where he was defence coach for Stade Francois.

The Black Ferns are set to play two tests against France in November. Games will be played at Toulouse and Grenoble.


Otago Spirit

Sep 1 v North Harbour, home
Sep 8 v Hawkes Bay, home
Sep 15 v Wellington, Porirua
Sep 22 v Counties-Manukau, home
Sep 29 v Taranaki, away
Oct 4 v Tasman, away

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