The inter-island match takes place amid uncertainty over whether the Rugby Championship will be played in 2020, or whether the All Blacks will have any tests at all.
The North and South teams had their first hit outs together at the Hutt Recreation ground in Lower Hutt on Monday afternoon and a near gale strength northerly wasn’t enough to blow the smiles off the faces of the coaches and players, who until last week were unsure if the game would even go ahead.
For the Auckland based players in particular it was good to feel some freedom after two and a half weeks at alert level 3.
“It’s cool man [that the game is being played]. It’s something I think the whole of New Zealand has been looking forward to happening and I know the boys were excited to get down here and have the chance to bang up some of their mates.”
North hooker Kurt Ekland was thrilled to be out of his Auckland house, and he’s confident the Tamaki Makaurau based players won’t have lost too much conditioning during the lockdown.
“We’re all still on a pretty strict programme in terms of fitness etc. The hardest thing is trying to get that contact training without having any mates to bash into, but we’ve been creative getting our fix there.”
The All Blacks assistant coaches are in charge of the teams, Scott McLeod and John Plumtree the North and Greg Feek and Brad Mooar the South.
McLeod says there’s plenty of competition for bragging rights among the coaching group.
“There’s loads on the line, loads on the line. The banter started sometime ago and it’s only intensified since we landed in Wellington.”
The teams have just four training’s to become a cohesive unit and build some culture.