Rangataua Sports Club has enjoyed many highs since it was founded in 1907 but defending the highly respected Middlesex County Wavell Wakefield Cup tomorrow may well trump them all.
Rangataua won the symbol of New Zealand club supremacy in sevens at Pakuranga in Auckland last February. They are the first Bay of Plenty club to win the title and have been building up to defend it at their home base at Maungatapu's Te Ariki Park ever since.
But they will be up against some fierce opponents led by three of Wellington's finest in Wainuiomata, Hutt Old Boys Marist and Upper Hutt. Auckland's Ponsonby and Manukau Rovers will also be confident of lifting the cup while Hamilton Marist are always competitive. Te Puna and Mount Maunganui are serious local contenders who do not have the travel factor the others will contend with. Sadly, Kia Toa from Palmerston North are a late scratching after their coach suffered a major heart attack. Another Western Bay team is expected to fill the gap.
Rangataua coach and former All Blacks Sevens captain Matua Parkinson knows his boys are in for a tough ride defending the valuable silver cup that has proudly been displayed in the clubrooms for 12 months.
"Whoever wins the tournament will have well and truly won the rights to call themselves the best club team in New Zealand," he said.
As cup holders, Rangataua were invited to play at the prestigious Central Coast Sevens in Australia and the Coral Coast Sevens in Sigatoka, Fiji late last year. Their experience at those tough tournaments have formed the basis of their preparation.
Rapata Ririnui from the Middlesex Operations organising team says the quality of the clubs competing is the highest for several years.
"Everyone has been commenting about how high the quality is. The top three Wellington clubs were very keen to come up," he said. "For me the highlight leading up to it has been the amount of support we have got from the local organisations and community who have come on board with good sponsorship. Our marae was offered out to everybody and Ardmore Marist will be staying there. We have provided every team a tent and the marae has provided the chairs and tables."
Origins of Cup
In New Zealand as in England, the Middlesex Sevens is a sevens tournament for clubs. Presented to the NZRFU by the Middlesex County Rugby Football Union in 1950, the prestigious trophy is a splendid silver cup of considerable value.
In 1949, the Middlesex County RFU offered cups in the county's name for a sevens competition in the "dominions or colonies".
Middlesex County Wavell Wakefield Cups were accepted by New Zealand, Australia and Rhodesia. Wavell Wakefield, later Lord Wakefield, played for Harlequins and was the captain of the England team at Twickenham in 1925.
The Wavell Wakefield Cup was brought to New Zealand by the manager of the 1950 Lions, LB Osborne.
It was competed for in Dunedin for the first time in 1951 and won by Zingari-Richmond.
The trophy has been held by both famous and little-known rugby clubs from one end of the country to the other.
In over 60 years of competition it has been held by 24 individual winners - seven North Island clubs and 17 South Island clubs.
It has been won nine times by Otago University RFC, five times by Taumarunui RFC and three times by Green Island RFC.
Between the years 1954 and 1978, the cup crossed Cook Strait 10 times. As holders the Rangataua Sports Club has the rights to conduct the national club sevens championship.
Where & When: Te Ariki Park, Maungatapu, tomorrow, 10am start.
Pool A: Rangataua, Wainuiomata, one to be added.
Pool B: Mount Maunganui, Ardmore Marist, Awanui
Pool C: Te Puna, Hutt Old Boys Marist, Manukau Rovers.
Pool D: Hamilton Marist, Ponsonby, Upper Hutt.