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Heartland Championship: Thames Valley v Buller


Sat 3 Sep 2011, 2:00pm

Where: Paeroa Domain, Arney Street, Paeroa, Hauraki

Restrictions: All Ages

The Heartland Championship, New Zealand's amateur domestic rugby competition, is a grassroots rugby tournament featuring 12 provincial teams throughout New Zealand.

New Zealanders support their local rugby teams with an intense parochial pride. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Heartland Championship. No matter which side you're backing or who's winning, you can't help but be swept up by the adrenalin and passion that fills the atmosphere, fuelled by players and supporters alike.

A modified round-robin draw just for 2011 sees each of the teams playing a total of eight matches — four home and four away. The top four teams at the end of these round-robin matches play for the Meads Cup, while the teams ranked five to eight play for the Lochore Cup.

The Thames Valley Rugby Union was formed in 1922, following the demise of the South Auckland Rugby Union, which split three ways. Based in the central North Island town of Paeroa, Thames Valley is made up of 13 clubs and is one of five unions making up the Chiefs Super Rugby franchise.

The Buller Rugby Union, formed in 1894, is made up of six clubs and is based in the West Coast town of Westport in the South Island. Buller has made the top tier Meads Cup section twice in the past three seasons and is one of six unions making up the Crusaders Super Rugby franchise.

Week 5 of the competition sees Thames Valley hosting Buller.

The Meads and Lochore Cups:

The Meads Cup is named after the legendary Sir Colin Meads. Nicknamed "Pinetree", Meads played 55 Test matches and a total of 133 matches (predominantly at lock) for the All Blacks between 1957 and 1971. He played a total of 361 first class matches during his career and is widely considered one of the greatest players in history.

In 1999 Meads was named New Zealand Player of the Century. He was the manager of the All Blacks in 1995 and was awarded Life Membership of the New Zealand Rugby Union in 2007.

The Lochore Cup is named after Sir Brian Lochore who has been an extremely influential All Blacks player, captain, coach and selector. Lochore played 43 matches for the All Blacks, including 25 Test matches, from 1963 to 1971. He captained the All Blacks 28 times, 18 of those being Test matches. Lochore became an All Blacks selector in 1983 and coached the All Blacks from 1985 to 1987. His tenure as coach included the All Blacks' only Rugby World Cup triumph in 1987. Sir Brian was knighted in 1999.

In 2006, the Meads Cup and Lochore Cup started a new life as champions' trophies for the Heartland Championship. Previously, both cups were challenge trophies, like the Ranfurly Shield, contested respectively in Divisions Two and Three of the National Provincial Championship.

For the Heartland Championship the Meads and Lochore Cups were reconditioned by jewellers Walker & Hall. The two cups are identical but rest on different bases: the Meads Cup has a silver base while the Lochore Cup sits on a wooden base.