UPDATED: It’s a blazing hot summer.
The sun beats down, but soon the weather cools and the Wellington region’s rugby followers will welcome another colossal year on the sidelines.
The next few weeks are not as busy as previous years on the local playing fields, with the next official competition or tournament match not until the Gala Day opener on 17 March.
Between now and then club coaches, CCOs and fitness trainers are busy preparing their clubs and teams for Swindale Shield kick-off. Pre-season fixtures amongst Wellington’s clubs get underway later in February.
With the international Sevens tournament now in Hamilton and the New Zealand Marist Federation Sevens that has been held concurrently at Wakefield Park for the past two years now in abeyance, the next big club tournament is the National 7s in Auckland on February 10-11.
The Upper Hutt Rams will be joining clubs from throughout the country at the headquarters of Eden Rugby Club in Auckland over two days to contest the Middlesex County Wavell Wakefield Cup.
This was won by Wainuiomata in 2015, while the Rams were beaten semi-finalists in Hamilton last year.
The following Saturday is the one-day Waipukurau Hawke’s Bay Sevens tournament hosted by the Central Rugby & Sports Club. Last year Wellington clubs Poneke, the Axemen and Petone made the trip up joining most of the Hawke’s Bay clubs and others from Manawatu and some school teams. Petone won the Colts division and were runners-up in the women’s competition.
The annual Sir Gordon Tietjens 7s secondary school tournament is being played over two days in Palmerston North in the first weekend of March. St Mary’s College are the defending girls champions and used this tournament last year as a springboard to greater success in 2017.
The annual Spillane Cup tournament for Marist clubs is in Auckland the following weekend, with multiple recent winners Hutt Old Boys Marist attending but defending champions Marist St Pat’s staying at home to complete preparations for the Swindale Shield the following weekend.
Meanwhile, Hurricanes fans will have to wait until 10 March to see their team in action on home soil for the first time in 2018 when they host the defending champions Crusaders at Westpac Stadium in their first home game.
Prior to that, the Hurricanes are playing in the Brisbane 10s and away pre-season matches, before starting their season proper in South Africa and Argentina against the Bulls and Jaguars respectively.
The Brisbane 10s is in just three weeks. The official website says this of the Red Hill extravaganza: “With 300 stars from all the Australian and New Zealand Super sides, plus Pacific heavyweights Fiji, Japan’s Panasonic Wild Knights and French powerhouse Pau [Conrad Smith’s club] taking the field, the quality of international talent on show is unrivalled, aside from the World Cup.”
The Chiefs are the defending champions, with the Hurricanes winning their pool and edging the Highlanders 7-5 in the quarter-finals and missing out to the Crusaders 7-17 in the semi-finals.
Before the Brisbane 10s, they meet the Crusaders in Greymouth on Friday 2 February.
The Hurricanes then meet the Blues in Auckland in their final warm-up before shipping out to South Africa to prepare for their competition opener in the wee small hours of Sunday 25 February (NZT ).
The Hurricanes U20s will also have a series of matches, confirmed below, as do the Hurricanes Development side. The Typhoons play the Blues Development on the same day as the opening round of Swindale Shield matches on 17 March at Evans Bay Park (kick-off 1pm,TBC).
There is also the BLK u85kg pre-season sevens tournament to be played at a yet to be confirmed date, won by Johnsonville last year.
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