Topic: Rugby

Counties-Manukau gear up to defend Ranfurly Shield against Otago

  • Auckland

Counties-Manukau are gearing up their first defence of the Ranfurly Shield against Otago on Saturday at ECOlight Stadium in Pukekohe.

Despite a slow start against Taranaki last week ending in a draw, they're determined to keep the shield in the region.

It's been safely locked up for the summer but this Saturday the log o' wood will be up for grabs.

“The community's been pretty hyped up about it, we've enjoyed having it over the off season," says coach Tana Umaga.

Counties made history last year when they lifted the shield for the first time after beating Hawkes Bay.  The team has successfully defended the shield five times and are determined to do the same this weekend.

While there is extra energy in camp this week, the emphasis is around improving their set pieces and the breakdown to allow their backs to run freely and score points.

"If the forward can get some good set piece ball and win us some of that, then our backs will flourish," says Umaga.

Otago kicked off their season with a good win over North Harbour last week and Counties expect them to lift even more this week.

Umaga says, "We've still got a couple of days to go so I'm telling them to calm down a bit and not to play the game too early."

It's clear to see Umaga won't be giving the shield away without a fight.