Tomorrow, Christchurch Boys' High and Christ's College will face off in one of the fiercest high school rivalries in New Zealand sport. Reuben Mama unpacks 118 years of blood, sweat and banter.
Anton Lienert-Brown and Damian McKenzie have long been teammates for Waikato, the Chiefs and most recently the All Blacks, but every year there is one rugby rivalry that will continue to divide the pair for the rest of their lives.
This weekend will see the 137th meeting between Christchurch Boys' High School and Christ's College, in what's a longstanding traditional school rivalry that dates back to the first game in 1892.
Christ's College were victorious in that first encounter, winning 34-0, which would be their biggest winning margin in the history of the fixture. Since then Christchurch Boys have largely had the upper hand - winning 84 matches, with Christ's College notching up a further 42 victories, while there have been nine draws.
Lienert-Brown is the last All Black to come out of Christchurch Boys' High School in 2012, with good mate McKenzie his Christ's College equivalent in 2013.
For both Lienert-Brown and McKenzie the history and prestige of the match was something they became immersed in from the moment they set foot onto their respective schools' grounds.
"As a year nine going into Christchurch Boys' High School the Christchurch Boys vs Christ's College fixture is one of the first things you hear about," Lienert-Brown reflects.
"It's a traditional that's been around for a long time and has a lot of meaning. I remember vividly the first match I went to, you learn all sort of outrageous chants and a lot of going back and forth between the schools, but it's one heck of a time and such an enjoyable time to go down there with your school mates and get behind the 1st XV."
McKenzie has similar memories.
"It was a great fixture to be a part of and for both schools it's always one they look forward to. It's been a longstanding traditional game and the rivalry particularly down in Christchurch with the schools is amazing.
"When I first moved up from Southland and went to the game I couldn't believe it, especially some of the chants I heard, I thought 'this is pretty over the top'. However, once you get out there it's pretty awesome to be a part of. Unfortunately we never won in the years I was involved, but since then I think the boys have won a few of the games and this weekend hopefully we can make it another one."
Lienert-Brown attended Christchurch Boys during their unbeaten run of 16 games against Christ's College, stretching from 2001-2016. He remembers the distinct feeling of running out for his first College match.
"It's definitely not normal. I think they've got about 3000 people around the field, so for a 17-year-old that's pretty cool. The whole day's a big one too. There's normally a meeting in the morning, you have a lunch and then there's a big build-up to the game. You're warming up and all the schools pile on in, Christ's on one side, Boys' High are on the other and you can feel the meaning behind it."
McKenzie was a part of one of the tightest tussles between the two schools in his final year in 2013. Christ's fell agonisingly short of breaking their winless streak, eventually losing 7-6. Playing at first-five in atrocious conditions, McKenzie reluctantly reflects on some match-winning opportunities he had from the kicking tee, while the entire opposition crowd were in his ears.
"I missed a few kicks that game. I remember it was televised and we were down to play at 2:30pm and the forecast for that day was for it to snow at about 2, but we couldn't bring it forward because of TV commitments - and sure enough at that time it started snowing and was one of the coldest games I've ever been a part of."
Though the pair are now based in Hamilton, school pride is still a hot topic of discussion.
"Anton might have forgotten his roots actually," McKenzie smiles.
"I've worn my Christ's College old boys shirt in every now and then and am yet to see him running round in a Christchurch Boys jersey, so I'd say my loyalty is a bit stronger than his. We've got a bet on this weekend, where whoever loses will wear the other team's jersey for a day. My fingers are crossed we'll get Anton in a Christ's College jersey come Monday."
Lienert-Brown was quick to come back swinging at McKenzie's remarks.
"I find that very funny. Glass houses I would say. I think what he forgets is he can still fit into his First XV jersey which is why he can wear it. I've still got mine but I've sort of outgrown it. He thinks wearing it around is enough, but I don't think he's ever gone back to the school and helped out.
"I sort of like to do it through actions and get back amongst my school every year, go and watch a game and get involved with the students. I don't think he's done that. But hey, if he sees him wearing his jersey around Hamilton as good enough then so be it. That's just my side of the story."
What exactly makes this rivalry so significant?
The two schools are the first all-male schools to be founded in Canterbury and were conveniently situated just 100 metres away from each other when they were first formed. Now, it's almost four kilometres that separates the blue and black of Straven Road and Christchurch Boys' High School from the black and white of Rolleston Avenue and Christ's College.
Christchurch Boys' Director of Sport Glenn Davis is an old boy of the school and has been involved with many College matches both on and off the field.
"I think there's a mutual respect between College and Boys' High. Yes there's that private versus state school rivalry - a bit like Auckland Grammar School and King's College in Auckland. There is respect across all sports, not just rugby and it's probably the school we have associated with the most in Christchurch. We have great rivalries with St Andrew's College and St Bede's College and the other single sex boys' schools, but with College there's always been that rivalry that's developed over time. A lot of teachers bounce between schools as well, so everyone's well known to each other," Davis explains.
One of those who have bounced between schools is Christ's Master in charge of rugby Stephen Dods, who was Director of Rugby at CBHS for 14 years before joining Christ's College in 2015.
"The rivalry between the two schools for this match is because of the length of time they've been playing each other," Dods said.
"It's as simple as that. I've been fortunate enough to view it from both schools' perspective and I think it's the same for both of them. This game is a proud tradition."
New All Blacks assistant coach Brad Mooar was part of a winning Boys' High effort in his final year of school in 1992 and even 28 years on he remembers that game distinctly.
"It was a great day, my last year of school playing 1st XV with mates who are still my great mates and I remember it being an overcast day when we played College at Straven Road.
"Leading into the day we had an assembly and capping. Our captain lived over the road from the field at Boys' High. I remember being across there at lunch time with half the team because you're just going about your school day as normal and then at the end of the day you've got this big game of footy. We're just over there at lunch time having a yarn and I can remember the stereo is blasting and playing "Burning Down the House" by Talking Heads. It always takes me back to that moment.
"Then we had the game which was a great performance by us, our team was firing and I think it was 22-0 at halftime and then it was damage control from Christ's after that for a 28-6 fulltime scoreline. We had big Daryl Gibson at centre, Scott Hansen was at halfback.
"Just cool days and I'm still in touch with those boys, we've had a couple of reunions and people are all over the country and the world. There are a couple of boys from College - Simon Maling was in the College team and he pops up every now and then socially."
Former All Blacks captain Reuben Thorne is the coach of the Christ's College 1st XV, taking up the role in 2016 a year after Christ's suffered their heaviest defeat to Christchurch Boys – An 80-0 thrashing which saw Super Rugby backs Will Jordan and Josh McKay combine for seven tries for Boys' High.
Turning around Christ's fortunes has been an exciting challenge for Thorne and he and his side reaped the rewards of hard work and resilience when Christ's snapped their 16-game losing run in 2017 with a 16-14 triumph.
Thorne says it'd be a huge achievement to get one up on the old foe again when they host Boys' High at the Christ's College upper field.
"There's very little motivation needed for either team for this game. Most of the boys have come through their schools watching this game as young students and understand that it is one of the biggest games on the local rugby calendar," Thorne said.
"Generally this game is played midweek so the students turn up in great numbers, chanting and cheering in their school colours which creates a pretty special atmosphere. This year's game is being played on a Saturday but will still be fully supported."
Andy Gibson's in his first year as Christchurch Boys' head coach, but as an old boy of the school, he's followed the match for a long time and can't wait to be an integral part of proceedings this weekend.
"You really feel like you're bleeding blue and black and everything the team's doing on the field you feel as though you're a part of it. That is probably the special part of it - everyone feels they're on the field with the boys. Whether they've got aspirations to be on the field or not, whether they're musically inclined, academic, or rugby players, everyone gets in behind the team and I think that just pulls the whole school spirit together."
For anyone who's attended these matches, it's hard to look past the passionate crowd led by the students of the respective schools. Each of the students has school pride as they look to give their school a lift by way of the school song, a haka or a creative chant that their parents would be horrified to hear come out of their mouths. As bodies crash and bash into each other on the field and verbal jousts are slung across the embankments it presents the question - like many classic sporting rivalries, is there hatred between these two schools?
"Hatred's a strong word," reflects Gibson.
"It's a respect thing. Christ's College have typically in the past come in as underdogs, so they've always wanted to take the scalp of Boys' High. I think in the past couple of years that's certainly changed and the teams are a lot more even and both consistently up in the top four and it does come down to who's going to deal with the pressure most and because of how evenly matched they've been it's put more of a rivalry onto it, because you know going into this game you have to be at your best to come away with victory."
Lienert-Brown believes the rivalry between the two schools is similar to that of an international encounter he's been involved in on many an occasion.
"In a way it's like the All Blacks vs South Africa where you respect both teams, but on the field it's pretty brutal. There's a lot of pride that you associate with what school you go to, so there is respect off the field, but on the field there's no respect at all."
For the two captains who will have the privilege of leading out their schools in this weekend's match, it's something they've been dreaming about since they arrived at their school.
"Dad took me to a couple of games when I was in year eight before I came to the school and ever since then I thought it was pretty cool," says Christchurch Boys' captain Jamie Hannah says.
"Then in year nine it was something the older boys told you to look forward to later in the year and then when you get there it's a cool experience and has been a highlight going through the school. I've been lucky enough to play the game for the last couple of years and it's a pretty cool day and experience for the school and those boys playing."
Christ's College captain Fletcher Anderson says the atmosphere on game day is particularly special.
"It's just incredible. I get goosebumps walking out onto the field. You get used to it after a while, but for the first few minutes of the match you can't hear yourself think."
Anderson would love nothing more than to captain his side to an elusive victory in his final year.
"It would be very special. I've been on the losing side of the match three times already after we lost in the final two years ago so it'd be great to get one over them."
While the players that take the field this weekend will hold hopes of one day joining Brad Mooar in the All Blacks camp as a player, Mooar's encouraging them to thrive in the present.
"It gives me goosebumps now just thinking about it. It's awesome for them and their families and mates. My message is to just enjoy the moment. You can have dreams and aspirations and that's brilliant, they motivate us, but making sure you're in the moment and enjoy all the experiences that an occasion like this brings. Understand the game doesn't change, so just use that emotion to drive a performance with a bit more energy. The enjoyment of it can go quite quickly and then you're looking back on it and next week the teams will play games against other opposition and there might be 200 people at the ground, if that.
"It's a special occasion and some won't play in front of a crowd like that again. Others will, but it'll still be a special moment for all."
18/7/2020 Christ's College 1st XV vs Christchurch Boys' High School 1st XV – 12:10pm – Christ's College: CCCG Upper Field.