It's been a long time between drinks for Super Rugby fans in Mangatainoka - the home of Tui Brewery.
But come next February all that will change, when a farmer's paddock will once again be transformed into a top-notch pitch ready to host Battle at the Brewery, a Super Rugby pre-season game between the Hurricanes and the Blues.
Back by popular demand, February 9 next year will see the welcome return of the two popular Super Rugby franchises to the small Tararua township – population 1560 – after games were held between the two rival teams there between 2010–2013.
The local community are ecstatic the big game is returning to the small town and already have offered to lend a hand to ensure the welcome mat is laid out for all visitors.
But for one of the town's most familiar faces, the return of the epic clash is especially meaningful.
Nick Rogers, who runs the visitor experience at Tui Brewery, originally came up with the idea to turn a local paddock into a rugby pitch and remembers how everyone thought he was mad.
"I had this idea to bring the Hurricanes to Mangatainoka back in 2010. At the time it raised a few eyebrows and people had a wee chuckle but pretty quickly they realised I was serious. Within weeks we had a team of terrific volunteers who helped make that first game possible," recalls Rogers.
"Despite the rain and mud, it delivered an incredible game of rugby with the late Sir Colin Meads, Sir Brian Lochore and the great commentator Keith Quinn among the 8000-strong crowd. It reinforced how important it is to have top-level rugby players connect with their rural communities and inspire our youngsters.
"After games in Masterton and Eketahuna in 2014 and 2015, and a rest the last two years, people are itching for the game to come back to Mangatainoka. I for one am so, so excited that Tui is bringing this epic clash back to Mangatainoka in 2019."
Dane Coles, captain of the Hurricanes, says the team is really keen to head back to the farm for the February game. "I know the whole squad are looking forward to heading back to Mangatainoka, especially the boys who have not experienced playing there before.
"It really is a unique day and the team gets really well looked after by all the locals," Coles said.
Tickets for the game go on sale today. It will be played back at the Mangatainoka RFC on Kerry Fergus' farm and will see the community rally together to host a predicted 5000 visitors.
Ticket numbers have been reduced to create a more intimate atmosphere at the game, and they are expected to sell out quickly.
There will be enough temporary seating to accommodate all ticket-holders, pre and post-game entertainment, and passionate fans turning out in their regional colours. There will also be prizes up for grabs for fans who go above and beyond with their fancy dress.
Rogers says news of the Battle at the Brewery has spread quickly through town and already the community are knocking on the doors at Tui Brewery wanting to help put on an epic and memorable day for sport fans.
Battle at the Brewery:
Super Rugby pre-season game between the Hurricanes and Blues
When: Saturday, February 9, 2019
Time: Gates open 12.30pm, kick off 3pm.
Cost: $45 GA before Santa; $50 GA after Santa; $140 corporate – VIP; $20 children. All tickets are available to purchase from www.tuihq.co.nz or at Tui Brewery in Mangatainoka. General admission tickets are available from local PGG Wrightson and Norwood Farm Machinery Stores. Once you've purchased your tickets, enter the draw to be part of the half-time entertainment and go into the chance to win a Panasonic 43-inch 4K Ultra High Definition Smart TV.