No two Bay of Plenty rugby clubs are closer.

For anyone with a decent arm, Te Puke Sports' Murray Salt Stadium and Rangiuru's home, Centennial Park, really are pretty close to a stone's throw away from each other.

When the two sides clash in the final weekend of the first round of the Baywide Premier Rugby competition on Saturday, the game will be a local derby in the truest sense of the term.

The Pirates will be favourites to take the win - after all, they have beaten all the other sides they have played so far this season.


But Rangiuru, newly promoted to the premier 1 competition this season after several years of division 1 rugby, haven't been too shabby either - just ask Te Puna and Rangataua.

Te Puke top the table and are defending Baywide champions, while Rangiuru currently sit fourth - but the sides' preparations for this weekend's derby couldn't have been more disparate.

Last Saturday's game between Te Puke and Rotoiti never happened, with Rotoiti defaulting, giving Sports a weekend of rest, while Rangiuru were soundly beaten 57-19 by a resurgent Whakarewarewa.

Rangiuru's player coach Tanerau Latimer says the loss hurt.

''It certainly hit the pride - but that's rugby and that's sport. There's a winner and a loser and we were the loser on the day,'' he says.

Baywide Rugby. Te Puke Sports v Tauranga Sports at Murray Salt Stadium. Prop and coach Matt Wallis gets Te Puke going forward. 30 January 2019 Bay of Plenty Times Photograph by Stuart Whitaker
Baywide Rugby. Te Puke Sports v Tauranga Sports at Murray Salt Stadium. Prop and coach Matt Wallis gets Te Puke going forward. 30 January 2019 Bay of Plenty Times Photograph by Stuart Whitaker

Te Puke counterpart Matt Wallis is undecided as to whether the enforced week off is a good or a bad thing.

''You can look at it both ways I guess - it gives guys a chance to have a bit of a rest, those who've been playing week in, week out. On the other side of that, it's a chance for guys to get game time that you miss out on.

''But it is what it is, there's not point getting upset about it - it's more of a shame for Rotoiti. You feel for them more than anything.''


Rangiuru were without several injured players in Rotorua, and Latimer says he hopes most will be back on Saturday, vowing to field a close-to-full-strength team - with his own name on the team sheet.

Wallis almost has an embarrassment of riches, even with Kane Le'aupepe and Dan Hollinshead away on Super Rugby duty with the Hurricanes and Highlanders respectively.

Backs Cole Forbes and Lalomilo Lalomilo, both named last week in the New Zealand Under 20 squad for the World Rugby Under 20 Championship next month in Argentina, are back from playing for New Zealand in the Oceania Rugby Under 20 Championship in Australia.

Whether they play on Saturday is still uncertain.

''Its a hard one, because you want them to play, but you don't want to put them at risk of missing something bigger in the future. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to play for the New Zealand 20s.

''They are two young fellas who have worked hard, they keep their heads down and are good fellas to have around. They deserve it, they are good players, and I hope there are bigger an better things ahead for them as well.''

Latimer says that while next Saturday's game will have little bearing on the Baywide title, it's about ''getting No 1 in Te Puke - and [Te Puke Sports] will be thinking the same.

''It's a massive occasion - it's been a long time since Rangiuru and Te Puke have battled it out in the premier division, and obviously Te Puke have shown the way in how it's done.

"We'll just do our jobs and get amongst it, and they will be exactly the same.''

Rangiuru have already made people sit up and take notice this season with away wins over Te Puna and Rangataua and a first up draw with Greerton Marist.

''A clash with Rangiuru - they are always big games,'' says Wallis, ''and you always get their best and I guess we always try and give them our best''.

''But at the end of the day it's another game - every team's good in this competition and you show every team the same respect when you come up against them. So yes, it is a big game in a way, they've been going well and they've earned some respect in this competition and they'll get [respect] on Saturday.''

Rangiuru will have home advantage for the clash. The clubs' development sides face off at 1pm with the premiers' game starting at 2.45pm.