Shield not to be rushed around province

Otago will not be rushing the newest member of its trophy cabinet around the province as quickly as it did last time.

As the union gets the Ranfurly Shield engraved and begins to plan for a summer with the trophy, union general manager Richard Kinley said he had already had requests through until January from organisations keen to get their hands on the trophy.

Otago won the Ranfurly Shield on Saturday, beating Waikato 23-19 on the back of some rugged defence. As it is the last game of the regular season, Otago will have the Log o' Wood over the summer and its first defence will not be until the middle of next year.

Kinley said the trophy was a boost for the game in the South.

``It still hasn't really sunk in yet. But we want to have a structured approach in what we do with the shield. But we have to remember we've got a game on Saturday 

Hayden Symister (8), of Dunedin, and Otago captain Michael Collins with the Ranfurly Shield at...
Hayden Symister (8), of Dunedin, and Otago captain Michael Collins with the Ranfurly Shield at the Golden Centre yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH

that we have to prepare for. It is an added complication but a good complication,'' Kinley said.

He said there was still a prestige and excitement around the shield.

``You only have to look at the way the players reacted and the crowd we got at the airport to see that is is still a very important trophy in New Zealand rugby. There are of course the doomsayers who say it wasn't what it was but it is still important.

``Does it give you a boost in revenue? I don't know. It doesn't come with a cheque attached ... but what it has done is get Otago rugby back into people's minds. Get people talking about the team again. It still carries a bit of weight around.

``What we and the board have always said is we want to be playing against the best and this year we have played against the four best teams in the Premiership. One of our strategic goals is to play regularly against the top teams in the country.''

The shield would go round a few sponsors this week and head to South Otago later in the week.

He was not sure whether having the trophy would bring more players to the union but getting into the Premiership section of the Mitre 10 Cup was a key in attracting players.

The previous time Otago had the shield, in 2013, the trophy went on a full tour around the province in a week as the side had a defence the following weekend. It subsequently lost to Hawke's Bay resulting in a tenure of just nine days, one of the shortest in Ranfurly Shield history.

Otago will have five challenges from teams in the Mitre 10 Cup next year. The holder also usually had a couple of hit-outs against Heartland Championship teams before its season start. Unions such as North Otago and South Canterbury may fancy a crack at a challenge.

Kinley said the focus for the players was now on the playoff game on Saturday night against Hawke's Bay.

He was hoping for a decent crowd to the match although playing a game at Labour Weekend was tough with many Dunedin residents going away.

Kinley said the players always said how much better it was to play when there was a big crowd at the stadium.

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