Rugby: Mourie and Gilbert to coach North v South

Former All Blacks assistant Tony Gilbert will coach the South. Photo / Getty Images.
Former All Blacks assistant Tony Gilbert will coach the South. Photo / Getty Images.

Former All Blacks captain Graham Mourie and former All Blacks assistant coach Tony Gilbert will coach the teams in the first North and South match for 17 years.

The game will be held at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium on June 10 as a way to help the cash-strapped Otago Rugby Union, who recently staved off bankruptcy.

Mourie, who captained the North in six appearances between 1976 and 1982, will coach the North team with assistance from North Harbour coach Liam Barry.

Gilbert, the former Otago, Highlanders and All Blacks assistant, will take charge of the South with help from former All Black and current Otago coach Tony Brown.

Players will be drawn from the five Super Rugby teams and wider training groups but the quality of the sides is questionable. They will be without All Blacks, who play Ireland in the first test of the year in Auckland on June 9, and many of the Super Rugby franchises have said they are reluctant to release players for the match.

"We expect the coaches to use this opportunity to allow up and coming players to showcase their skills and the All Black selectors will have an eye on the match as they keep abreast of the depth of talent we have in this country,'' NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said.

Although the concept is not a new one, it came about after a suggestion from the New Zealand Rugby Players Association who wanted to help out the Otago union.

"From a player's perspective, we appreciate all that the public and Dunedin City Council have done for Otago rugby during these challenging times, and rugby in general through the development of a fantastic stadium,'' NZRPA Boss Rob Nicol said. ``This game serves as a means of saying thank you, and acknowledging the commitment and work of many in creating the platform that rugby in the deep south now has.

"For players who miss the first All Blacks selection of the year the game presents an opportunity for them to put their hand up in a meaningful fixture, born out of a traditional rivalry that is the North v South match.''

The teams, to be picked by the coaches in consultation with the Super Rugby coaches, are expected to be named on June 3 after the All Blacks squad for the Ireland tests is announced.

- APNZ

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