Te Kapehu Whetu and Whangarei have welcomed the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians to Northland ahead of their clash with the British and Irish Lions.
The charter school performed a beautiful waiata and a rousing haka to the Barbarians side, with Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai welcoming them to town.
Barbarians and Northland loose forward Matt Matich said he had never experienced a welcoming quite like it.
“The first part of it was really quite intense, almost intimidating. There was a lot of passion showing and some beautiful voices in there,” he said.
“I don’t know if I’ve had a powhiri this powerful before, there was so much of energy behind it. The boys definitely enjoyed it.”
We have a helluva lot of young players wanting to become Super players who will announce themselves to the world on Saturday
The Barbarians squad were training earlier in the day at Marist RFC Park in what was their third day together as a squad.
Matich said the squad is in great spirits ahead of the enormous fixture.
“We’re feeling pretty positive. Obviously we’ve identified the Lions have a strong scrum, but we’re definitely not going in like we are going to lose in that area,” he said.
“We’re trying to figure out how we can win the scrum. There’s a whole lot of positivity and that’s what we need if we want to go in and win this one.
“No one goes out there to lose obviously.
“As an individual it’s a huge opportunity especially for us guys who aren’t fully contracted.
“We’re just on three month contracts so it’s a huge opportunity to get exposure in New Zealand and overseas.”
Barbarians assistant coach Roger Randle concurred with Matich, saying they aren’t going into the match to make up numbers.
“We’re New Zealand rugby players, every New Zealand team has that winning mentality built in,” he said.
“We’re not going out there to come off second best but we’re well aware of the challenges we face with the calibre of players that are coming.
“We’ve got a great bunch of guys in our group. We have a couple of experienced guys who have been at the Super level and we have a helluva lot of young players wanting to become Super players who will announce themselves to the world on Saturday.”
Randle said the excitement was bubbling within the unit and they were wary of overplaying their hand.
“We’re just trying to throw a simple plan together, trying to not complicate things.
“There are challenges with not spending a heap of time together but we knew that going in so it’s not really something we’ve spoken about other than when we first came together.
“We’ll just try to keep things simple but throw in a bit innovation.
“It’s been a long time coming; we’ve been in preparation for months as a group.
“We’re massively excited.”
Originally featured in the Northern Advocate, Monday, 29 May, 2017
by Andrew Johnsen
Photo: Te Kapehu Whetu students perform an intimidating haka to welcome the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians to Whangarei. Photo/John Stone