There are some mouth-watering clashes in Round Seven of the Canstaff Metro Premier Rugby competition on Saturday with Sydenham hosting the undefeated Lincoln University, two of the oldest Christchurch rugby clubs meet at Bob Deans with Old Boys taking on Christchurch and Shirley are at home against an in-form Marist-Albion.
Burnside and New Brighton meet in which is shaping as a must-win for both sides, Belfast will look to break their duck when they take on Linwood and University face a tricky trip out to face Sumner.
Sydenham (5th) v Lincoln University (1st) at Sydenham Park
Undefeated Lincoln University face a trip into town to meet a team that are on a roll themselves. Sydenham have won their past three matches propelling them into contention for a semi-final spot.
The students have dropped just a solitary point throughout the competition thus far although coach Alex Robertson still treats each game as a must win. Asked if he feels his troops have hit the potential, Robertson said “six out of six is a good indication of where we are at but every week we need to play differently and we are still learning and seeing how far we can push ourselves.”
“We expect a tough battle. We know what Sydenham bring and we need to be ready for that,” said Robertson.
Sydenham coach Sid Tauamiti was happy with where his squad are at after a slow start to the season. “We are improving each week and if we can take another step up it will put us in a good position to challenge Lincoln’s unbeaten run.”
Sydenham’s Dan Fransen is a player to watch for all the supporters heading along. The fullback tops the try scoring list for the season with six tries. “He has electric speed, especially from broken field play,” Tauamiti said of the NZ Sevens player who made his representative debut in 2019/20.
Sydenham are expecting “well-structured rugby” and were wary of the speed from the outside backs of Lincoln.
Belfast (12th) v Linwood (10th) at Sheldon Park
It will be a huge day at the Snakepit on Saturday when Belfast and Linwood will go to battle on club day at Sheldon Park, a match that will see the inaugural match for the Bush-Norton Trophy being fought.
Billy Bush (Belfast) and Tane Norton (Linwood) are both still actively involved with their respective clubs and will jointly present the trophy, which was carved by Tairoa Flanagan, to the winning team at the clubs team speeches after it has been blessed.
“This is a great way to recognize stalwarts from both clubs. It’s wonderful to have them still involved,” Don Fisher, Belfast club captain said, adding that both former All Blacks have been mentors to him during his time at Linwood, and now Belfast. “These are two genuine grass roots rugby clubs with great true-blue collar supporters.”
Belfast will be looking to start the day on a winning note and get their first win of the season under their belt. It is no secret that the Cobras are in a “rebuilding phase” and will look to put in more of a “complete performance” to thank their loyal supporters according to coach Mpho Mbiyozo.
Linwood are determined to come to the party and put the disappointment of last week’s thriller behind them although the Bulls are facing several injury woes. A win for Linwood will open a chance for another dig at the top four.
Burnside (9th) v New Brighton (7th) at Burnside Park
A must-win game looms for Burnside and New Brighton if they wish to keep their semi-final hopes alive. Contrasting performances last weekend saw Burnside hold on for a nail-biting win against Shirley while the seasiders were outclassed by Marist.
Burnside will look to “entertain with the sun on our backs” according to coach Bevan Sisson who is expecting a good dry track. Sisson added that bonus points had not helped his team this season and that, “it’s a crucial game for both sides.”
New Brighton coach Ross Martin was pleased with his teams attitude at training this week admitting his chargers were “excited” to right the wrongs from last weekend’s loss. “We expect a physical battle this week but we are really focusing on ourselves and our energy levels.”
Christiaan Grandiek is set to feature in what will be his blazer game for Burnside, while inspirational captain Troy Mangan is expected to make his 100th appearance for New Brighton.
Sumner (11th) v University (8th) at St Leonards
Sumner will focus on themselves rather than the opposition as they look to get their season back on track in front of a rowdy St. Leonards. Despite being held to the donut last week against Lincoln, coach Martin Field-Dodgson said his team showed heart and fought hard for the whole game. Sumner will look for improvement but feel that the “enjoying themselves” is also a key element to what direction the team want to go in. Tom Ziolo will make his 50th appearance this weekend.
University are coming off a 78-point haul last weekend although are remaining grounded with a potential banana skin match facing them.
The squad have quickly brushed off last weeks win and are fully focused on the trip to Sumner.
Old Boys (6th) v Christchurch (3rd) at Bob Deans
The defending champion Polar Bears will look to go three-in-a-row after two 40-point scores the last fortnight while Christchurch will be hoping they can improve their, at times, patchy form and pick up another win and stay inside the top four.
Shirley (4th) v Marist-Albion (2nd) at Burwood Park
Shirley will attempt to rescue their season after back-to-back-losses have seen the Vikings slip to 4th on the competition ladder with Marist on a two-game winning run including an impressive drubbing of New Brighton last weekend. The match will be streamed on Canterbury Rugby Facebook page.
Kick off for all matches is 2.45pm