Oceana Gold Rush Otago and Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats will be playing for more than southern pride when the Women's Basketball Championship (WBC) resumes on Sunday.
Canterbury is unbeaten this season boasting an 8-0 record whilst Otago (7-1) have lost just once, against Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks, in the current campaign.
Otago will entertain Canterbury at the Edgar Centre hoping for a repeat of the outcome when the two teams met in Christchurch three weeks ago. On that occasion the Blue and Gold's slipped away from Cowles Stadium with a 72-70 overtime victory in a non-competition fixture.
That performance is not lost on Canterbury Wildcats coach Lori McDaniel, " The Wildcats are looking forward to the battle of the South against the Goldrush this Sunday. The Otago women had an outstanding performance against us last month and we are going into this match with a focus on execution and intensity."
Otago guard Janet Main scored 21 points on that occasion and small forward Bronwyn Kjestrup chimed in with 18 points. A similar output would help but Main will have only returned from China a few hours before the game. The Otago captain is the physiotherapist for the Junior Tall Ferns who have just returned from a nine game tour of China.
Fellow guard Nicole Ruske (13 points against China last Tuesday) was a member of the JTF's team and like Main could be battling the effects of jet lag. Forward Natalie Visger will not be suiting up as a result of a calf injury sustained early in the game against Waikato in Nelson.
Canterbury coach McDaniel has an array of talent at her disposal. Shea Crotty, named this week in the Tall Ferns trial squad, leads a talented backcourt that also includes Anita Snowdon, Courtney Hamblin and Hayley Gray.
The forward spots are equally well covered with Fran Edmondson and Terai Sadler (also named to attend the Tall Ferns trial) complimenting the rebounding powerhouse that is American import Ashley Gayle.
Otago coach Todd Marshall is aware of the Wildcats depth, "Canterbury pose some real challenges due to their size and squad depth, this is an excellent opportunity to test ourselves prior to finals weekend in Porirua".
Despite that depth and Canterbury's unbeaten record Marshall is looking forward to the encounter, "The most looked forward to game of the season thus far, the team is looking forward to playing its only game in front of a home crowd this season," he said.
The winner of the game will win the WBC round robin series and carry number one seeding, and the more favourable draw, into the championship deciding Porirua tournament in mid May.
Canterbury, should they lose, would finish second. However if Otago lose they will slip to third. The Gold Rush would have the same 7-2 record as Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks but would fall behind the Hawks on the head to head record.