Opinionated Rugby Commentary - by Fans for Fans
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Highlanders From Rags to Riches - Otago's Back! 40 views
20 March 2012 by The Swede Eaters
Scotty Donaldson looks at how things look more promising in his former University province.
The Highlanders are the unlikely top team after four rounds of Super
Rugby defeating their New Zealand rivals, the Hurricanes on Saturday.
They didn't make the most of their opportunities, but still won 19-17.
Things are looking up for the smallest franchise in the Super Rugby
competition given that they were struggling as New Zealand's worst
franchise in recent years and they feared losing the franchise's biggest
ITM Cup province Otago up until recently.
The Highlanders have
been playing home matches in front of large crowds for a change this
time it is at the new indoor stadium at Forsyth Barr Stadium instead of
Carisbrook. They now also have enough firepower in their backline to
match their forward pack and more depth than previous years. They also
have a high work ethic which hopefully won't knock the stuffing out of
the team later on.
The marketing team's decision to make their
team play in a green jersey which symbolised the new direction of the
region rather than the history of the province of Otago was an absolute
masterstroke on Saturday night. Sure it was criticised heavily last
year, but I notice that no diehard Otago supporters who struggled to
separate Otago from the franchise weren't complaining on St Patrick's
Day when hundreds of fans went to the game in Wellington dressed in
green and inadvertently supported the Highlanders. These are the narrow
minded people who didn't want the indoor Forsyth Barr Stadium and
selfishly think the Highlanders should wear the Otago colours when there
are less than a handful of Otago players in the Highlanders squad.
would like to state that the Highlanders are different to Otago and are
separate entities. The Highlanders rely heavily on the draft, but
officially represent the lower part of the country (Southland, Otago,
North Otago). Southland has had far more players in the Highlanders
than Otago in the last few seasons and the New Zealand franchises all
dropped the reference to the area in the name of the teams years ago, so
it is the Highlanders, Crusaders, Hurricanes, Chiefs and Blues.
it must be said that Otago a few weeks ago was a laughing stock of New
Zealand rugby, but now thanks to the new indoor Forsyth Barr Stadium, a
very generous bailout from the New Zealand Rugby Union the local council
and businesses and a rejuvenated Highlanders team, things are looking
up in Otago. The Otago Rugby Football Union will survive and the
separate entity which is the Highlanders is thriving at the top of the
table. The influx of North Island based players and coach Jamie Joseph
along with a few Otago players and a decent core of Southland players
has created a leading Super Rugby franchise. This means that not only
will Forsyth Barr Stadium be home to an ITM Cup team, but it could at
some stage host a Super Rugby final. This all seemed unlikely a month
ago, but there is still plenty of water to go under the bridge before
Can the Highlanders keep up there impressive record? Do you think that Otago deserved to be bailed out? Is Forsyth Barr Stadium still a waste of time? What do you think of the Highlanders green jerseys now?