The return of the Mitre 10 Cup

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

The saying that ‘the more that things change - the more that they stay the same' seems to have come true in this years Mitre 10 Cup.

When the Mitre 10 Cup - which is today's name for the National Provincial Championship - kicked off in 1976, there was a multiple mid-afternoon starts with many of the provincial venues not having the luxury of lights to play night rugby.

Over the subsequent years, brand new stadiums were built replacing iconic rugby grounds such as Athletic Park in Wellington, Christchurch’s Lancaster Park and Carisbrook in Dunedin.

The new stadiums, with all their bells and whistles, focused on making the game an entertainment event, rather than just an afternoon at the footy.

Night rugby became the norm, with many died in the wool rugby traditionalists lamenting Saturday and Sunday afternoon kick-offs.

Bay of Plenty Rugby made the bold decision a few seasons ago to split their NPC fixtures between night rugby at the Rotorua International Stadium, and 2.35pm starts at the Tauranga Domain.

The crowds decked out in their Steamers gear returned to the Tauranga Domain in their droves.

The coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down, with many changes that would have been unheard of just 12 months ago.

The success of the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition, with a mixture of Saturday night games and Sunday afternoon kick-offs, looks to be replicated in this years Mitre 10 Cup.

Bay of Plenty will mix it with the big boys this season in the Mitre 10 premiership division, after earning promotion after claiming last years championship title.

The revival of weekend afternoon footy will see the Bay of Plenty Steamers play seven mid-afternoon encounters, with just three games under lights.

The home-town matches begin with a brace of games under lights in Rotorua against Southland and Auckland.

October 24 brings the first of the 2.35pm kick-off, when Canterbury pays a visit to the Tauranga Domain.

The matchup with Hawke's Bay is likely to bring a good-sized contingent of Hawke-Eye supporters north to support their team, with North Harbour completing a trifecta of day time rugby at the Tauranga Domain.

For this writer, rugging up and braving the elements is what being a real rugby fan is about.

A walk to get a beer and a hotdog at halftime, is part of the tradition of New Zealand rugby which gives a new outlook on the game to a whole new bunch of rugby fans.

Long may afternoon representative rugby remain at the Tauranga Domain.

All the local domain needs to provide bespoke rugby venue, is a revamp of the grandstand to provide larger changing room facilities.

Go the Steamers


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