Former All Black Dan Carter once said, "nerves are natural, it means you are ready to face a challenge and perform".

Maka Paki Paki, coach of the Matthew & Co Senior Bs rugby team, says his team are certainly ready to face the challenge of defending their division one club championship title this coming Saturday, and he has no doubt that they will perform brilliantly.

For the second year in a row the Stratford Rugby and Sports Club division one side have fought through the round robin competition and made their way to the finals.

"While there was some expectation at the beginning of the season that because we won it last year we would definitely make the finals again, that isn't the case. It's not a right to defend the title, it's an honour that the team have worked hard for."

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Team captain Gary Old says, "we came out fighting on Saturday and were determined to focus on what we could achieve, not on what the other team were going to do."

Gary, who was new to the role of captain this year, says last Saturday's 26-7 semifinal win against New Plymouth Old Boys is the benchmark the team have set for the finals.

"The game was by far the best 80 minutes we have played all season and we hope to continue that momentum against Southern this weekend."

Maka says the division one team has seen 53 players take the field for them this season.

"The Stratford Eltham amalgamation has really seen a positive change for the club, it has been great to see new faces in all the Stratford teams this year."

Gary adds that while players have moved throughout the grades over the season and some have been taken out by injuries, there has been a core group of Senior Bs players who have kept the team going this season.

"That core group of players have proven to be great leaders and role models for the new players which is great," says Gary.

Nathan McDonald, club chairman, has praise for all of the teams this year.

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"As a club we are proud of all the players who have played for Stratford Rugby Club from our premier team all the way through to our under-6 players.

"Throughout the season all of these players have put a lot of effort in, from pre-season training, gym and fitness work through to practices and games in the cold, wet and sleet."

Nathan says he wants as many supporters as possible to come along to cheer for the Stratford players as they take on Southern on Saturday, and encourages people to book a seat on one of the supporters buses.

"As a club and a community we wish the team all the best for this Saturday, let's get behind them and have plenty of support up there for them."

For a full match report of last Saturday's semifinal against New Plymouth Old Boys see page 24 and for more photos of the game see our online album at www.stratfordpress.co.nz.