James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Hamilton gears up for Super Rugby final

Thousands of rugby fans lined up outside the Waikato Stadium to buy tickets to this weekend's Super 15 rugby final match between the Chiefs and the Sharks. Photo / Christine Cornege
Thousands of rugby fans lined up outside the Waikato Stadium to buy tickets to this weekend's Super 15 rugby final match between the Chiefs and the Sharks. Photo / Christine Cornege

Chiefs rugby fans will now be spoiled for choice for watching tomorrow night's big game in Hamilton after spats over fanzones threatened to ruin the party for everyone.

It's new territory for Hamilton which is abuzz at hosting its first Super rugby final and expectations in the Tron are high for a first-ever title for the Chiefs franchise.

Yesterday dozens of people could be seen walking the city's streets in Chiefs colours and jerseys as flags adorned the central city.

The lights of the Victoria Bridge are flashing in the team's red, black and yellow colours and entrances to the city from Morrinsville, Cambridge and Auckland feature rugby-themed billboards welcoming visitors.

Chiefs fan Michael Adamson arrived in Hamilton yesterday having travelled back from Western Australia, where the long-haul truck driver has lived for the past 9 years.

He said his brother Paul bought them "some primo tickets, bro".

The Herald spoke to Mr Adamson, originally from Hamilton, who was enjoying a lunch-time beer at a local pub and wearing a tatty Chiefs jersey he has worn every Super rugby season since 2001.

"This is our year brother, I can feel it, I always had a good feeling that we could get to the final this year even after those recent losses."

Possibly not feeling it a bit earlier were Chiefs fans looking to congregate in town at fanzone when a spat over a proposed fanzone on Hood St saw it shut down before it even started.

Hamilton City Council ditched plans to to close Hood St for a Super Rugby final fanzone after local business owners including rival bar owner John Lawrenson said they were not consulted over an idea proposed by Phoenix Group owner Jason Macklow.

The council then announced that it could not provide a big television screen in its Garden Place fanzone because it "did not have enough time" to properly consult with local business owners and residents.

But Mr Lawrenson approached the council offering to pay all costs believed to be about $10,000 to provide entertainment, a big screen and security for fans in Garden Place to watch the game.

Mr Macklow said a fanzone also with a big screen to cater for dozens of people would still run on Hood St outside his House Bar - despite his original plans being scuttled.

Hamilton mayor Julie Hardaker said the final topped off an exciting time for the city and the region which is still on a high after the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic's ANZ Championship netball triumph over the Melbourne Vixens last month.

The region also has New Zealand's best cricket team the Northern District Knights, who earlier this year won the Plunket Shield for the eighth time, and a number of high-profile rowers in pursuit of Olympic glory.

"This Chiefs game is turning out to be almost as big as the Rugby World Cup because there's such a strong loyalty and a heartland rugby type of feel here in our city," said Mrs Hardaker.

"Off the back of the Magic doing it in Australia really geed everyone up and then the rowers and the cycling...it's just a reflection of how these events and successes can make people feel so passionate about their city and their region."

Metservice duty forecaster Fu Long Lu said there was a possibility of showers on Saturday night and light easterly breezes with a low of about 8 degrees.

The Chiefs are firm favourites with the TAB paying $1.33 last night with the Sharks at $3.10 for the win.

CHIEFS v SHARKS, WHAT'S HAPPENING:

Garden Place:

* Between 3-5pm Garden Place will host family-friendly pre-game activities including face painting, kids rugby, Mexican wave challenges with spot prizes.

* A one-way fan trail from Garden Place to Waikato Stadium with guides and free entertainment will be operating on Saturday night from 5pm to the game.

* From 5pm to 7.30pm live entertainment with covers band Boogie Monster.

* 7.30pm Chiefs v Sharks on the big screen.

Hood St:

* Four free buses will be running to Waikato Stadium - the first two will start at 6pm and run every 15 minutes, from Hood St where they will drop fans off outside Domino's on Mill St.

* Two more buses will start running at 6.30pm.

* A fanzone will be set up outside House Bar with a big screen television.

- NZ Herald

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