Rugby: ORFU woes derail women's team

Otago's financial pressures have claimed their first victim on the field, with the Otago women's team to miss this year's national competition.

The draw for the national women's competition, Heartland Championship and ITM Cup was released by the New Zealand Rugby Union yesterday and it showed Waikato had replaced Otago as one of the six teams in the women's competition.

The NZRU general manager professional rugby Neil Sorensen later confirmed the Otago women's team had been withdrawn because of the financial situation of the ORFU.

The national union paid for some of the costs of the women's competition but individual unions had to pay other costs such as accommodation and food.

With the union just staving off liquidation and looking to cut costs, the women's team may have become one luxury too many.

The future could also be bleak for Otago lower representative sides such as the B team and age group sides.

The Otago women's side had four losses and a draw last season and coach Tim Belcher said it was disappointing for those who had aspirations to play at a higher level.

In the ITM Cup, Otago will kick off its season with a game at Forsyth Barr Stadium against Northland, but any hopes of getting a Ranfurly Shield challenge appear remote.

It is still in the championship and so does not have an automatic game against shield holder Taranaki.

Even if Taranaki loses the shield in its first defence against Tasman, Otago plays Tasman at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Otago's best bet for a challenge is if Hawkes Bay wins the shield and successfully defends it against Bay of Plenty before Otago plays the Magpies on September 29 in Napier.

Otago does not have a single afternoon game and plays midweek matches against North Harbour and Manawatu.

Its season starts on August 27, with its final round robin game against Auckland on October 11.

North Otago's Heartland season will begin on August 25 against King Country in Te Kuiti.

There is no venue confirmed for its match against South Canterbury. It may be played in Dunedin on September 15, as this is the same date as the test between the All Blacks and the Springboks at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

 

 

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