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Pressure builds in the Heartland Championship

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Chester Scott

MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/Fairfax NZ
TOUGH TASK: Coach Chester Scott’s South Canterbury side need to win three in a row to lift the Meads Cup.

Several Heartland Championship coaches will have their calculators at hand as they head into the penultimate week of the round-robin.

After eight games the top four sides contest the Meads Cup while fifth to eighth fight out the Lochore Cup.

Buller look the only team assured of a top four placing, unbeaten after six rounds and should dispose of neighbours West Coast on Saturday.

Each week Buller seem to break another a record as the country’s smallest union marches on and they have a five point cushion.

Second placed Poverty Bay should also notch up the points against Thames Valley to remain in second spot but that won’t be an easy encounter.

After that it is wide open for the top four.

South Canterbury, who sit third, have the trickiest finish to the campaign facing Horowhenua-Kapiti in Levin on Saturday.

Horowhenua-Kapiti are only a point behind and while they went down to Buller on Saturday, 19-12, winning coach Craig Scanlon rated them a very good side.

“They are big boys and it will be a tough one to go up there and win.”

It is however a must win for South Canterbury as their final game is against Mid Canterbury.

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The defending champions had a shaky start but have been improving and they also thrashed South Canterbury in the pre-season.

While the green and blacks have got better, it would be a big ask and means the side will need to win three in a row to lift the Meads Cup.

Coach Chester Scott will certainly want to get the monkey off his back after five seasons with the team.

They won the Lochore Cup last year but have never been in the top four since his involvement with the side.

A bright start to the season, including leading for three rounds, will soon be forgotten should his side slump.

Unfortunately their upset loss to North Otago at the weekend has put the pressure on everyone involved.

Scott has always taken the season one game at time but he will no doubt be glancing forward.

Mid Canterbury coach Glen Moore will also be feeling some heat.

Moore will want to leave for his Super 15 coaching job with the Blues at least in the top four.

The defending champions also have an interesting match-up this weekend against North Otago, which is a replay of last year’s Meads Cup final.

The Old Golds remain an outside chance of the top four but their destiny is not all in their own hands.

They would however love to retain bragging rights and grab back the Hanan Shield.

Should they lower Mid Canterbury colours they are likely to pick up five competition points against the cellar dwellers East Coast and could be back in the mix.

King Country will also fancy their chances of climbing back into contention, with East Coast first up and then Wanganui.

STU PIDDINGTON – The Timaru Herald

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