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Hawkins Metro Division 1 - Finals Time
Burnside co-coach Peter Manson knows what it’s like to witness the red and whites win the Hawkins Trophy – from the other side.
In 2006 he was part of the Christchurch coaching unit with, ironically, current Sydenham coach John Sherratt which lost the final to Burnside. “I remember the look in eyes of the Burnside players that day,” Peter says. “They wanted to win that final so bad and they went and did it.”
Six seasons on and Peter and John are in opposite camps. “We are delighted to be in the final,” Peter says of his side’s 28-15 win over High School Old Boys in its semi-final. “Semi-finals are horrible in the sense that as a side you put in so much effort that sometimes there is not much left for the final – hopefully that won’t happen to us.”
Despite winning the Hawkins Cup this season and being the favourite for the Hawkins Trophy final this weekend, Peter says his team does have various work-ons. “Little things really; like our ball presentation at the tackle, our general support lines and finishing off scoring opportunities when they arise.” With talent such as front-rowers Mikae Tuu’u, Andrew Olorenshaw and Fred Burke and experience out wide in the likes of Mike Davis, Pete Stanley and Phil Gibson, Burnside has been the club to beat this season.
Peter says the experience in his side will be of great assistance as it builds for the final this week. As will the genuine camaraderie in the ranks. “The guys really get on well and spend a lot of time with each other and so that will help us. On Sunday they will play for each other.”
Burnside’s challenge is perhaps on the face of it to not take Sydenham too lightly. They have already beaten them twice this season. “As a squad we have tried not to look behind,” Peter says. “A final is exactly that: previous games between the two clubs count for nothing.”
Burnside will not be focusing too much on Sydenham’s style. That may be sensible: at the time of writing it was unclear which of the club’s Super Rugby and ITM Cup players it would have available. “Rugby players don’t like change,” Peter says. “They like to be in their comfort zone and so we will be focusing on the things that we can do well. We will be sticking to the plan we have implemented throughout the season.”
Burnside’s preparation will also be similar to previous weeks: the only change will be that the squad will meet this Saturday afternoon for a BBQ and to support their Division 3 side which plays Christchurch in its final.
Sydenham co-coach John Sherratt says his side has been building nicely ahead of its Hawkins Trophy final against Burnside this Sunday.
Sydenham has not won a Trophy final since 1999. John says that his side’s recent performances, including its 40-13 win against University at Ilam last weekend, are a sign that they're playing with new-found confidence.
“I think we deserved to be in the Top Four,” he says. “From there of course anything is possible. For us it has been all about self-belief. Our attitude has I think taken us into a position where we can challenge for the Trophy.”
A challenge for Sydenham is firstly knowing, and then secondly dealing with, which of its representative players it will have available for the final. “It’s both wonderful and difficult having our rep players available,” John says. “We are the only Top Four club I think to have players playing for a Super 15 franchise other than the Crusaders (in Highlanders Nasi Manu and Telusa Veainu) and so that has been challenging managing that.”
John says that if the representative players are available then those who have filled the spots during the season will understand. “We are a tight unit and the guys left out know that it will be in the best interests of the club.”
John says that Burnside is a talented side. “They are skilful across the park. If we are going to be successful against them then we need to slow down their quick ball and put the squeeze on them. We also will need to get quality field position and make sure we play with the ball.”
Sydenham and Burnside are similar in the sense that they both have strong numbers in their junior grades and have been there or thereabouts in Division 1 in recent seasons without winning too much silverware. Then there is the fact that John and Burnside coach Peter Manson have coached together at Christchurch some years ago.
“He’s a guy who is very difficult not to like,” John says of Peter. “He’s got really good rugby knowledge while he is a marvellous communicator with the players. Pete and Dave (Robertson) have done really well at Burnside but of course we aim to rain on their parade on Sunday.”
Sydenham’s chances in the final may depend on which representative players are made available to them: Any side with Telusa Veainu, Tyler Bleyendaal, Paul Ngauamo, Neop Laulala, Nasi Manu and Codie Taylor has the sort of strike-power that will threaten any club team
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