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The ITM Cup team was left horrified at news the Otago Rugby Football Union faces liquidation unless an 11th-hour solution can be found before the deadline on Friday.
The players are in limbo until a final decision is reached but have vowed to stay together and continue training as usual.
"We knew it was bad but we did not know it was that bad," Otago prop Scott Manson said.
"But whether it is a new entity or somehow resurrected, we are still hopeful of playing in the ITM Cup as an Otago team.
"We definitely have hope. From the board's perspective, it didn't sound very optimistic at all. But from what Rob Nichol from the players' association has told us, there is still some chance that it can be resurrected."
The 23-year-old prop made his debut last season and was looking forward to the campaign.
The Kaikorai Valley College school teacher had put in a request for leave so he could compete in the tournament the same day the news broke.
"I said to the principal this morning, 'I might want to take the letter back'," he joked.
"But the team has talked and we are going to continue training as normal. So we'll still have Monday and Wednesday training, we'll still have our weight sessions in the morning and continue on until we know more details.
"It is too early for us to say, 'Hey, no, let's go.' But if it goes into liquidation on Friday, then we are free agents.
"But we've talked and have decided that we will hang tight together."
There are not a lot of other options available. Most of the other ITM Cup teams have full or close to full playing rosters and there is nowhere else to go.
Some of the lucky players might get picked up by other teams but, for now, the team is determined to stick together.
"As players, we don't want anyone else to leave, because as soon as one leaves, it starts to snowball, doesn't it?
So we want to try and stay together and, hopefully, play for Otago.
"In saying that, I have aspirations to play at super level and if I have not got an ITM Cup team to play in, then how am I supposed to get to the next level?"
Loose forward Adam Hill (25) said the news had come as a shock.
"It is just a sad time for a prestigious province," he said.
"I know myself and a lot of the other boys are just really hopeful that the administration can get together and get their heads around it."
Staying loyal could be costly.
The income Hill drew as an Otago rugby player made up half his salary and if it suddenly disappeared, he would have to consider his options.
"I pretty much gave up my career as the head shepherd on a farm to pursue rugby. Worst-case scenario, I could always return [to shepherding]."