Otago v Hawke's Bay, ITM Cup
Kees Meeuws presents case for shield defence
August 30, 2013
Fa'asiu Fuatai (L) and Craig Millar of Otago celebrate with the Ranfurly Shield, Waikato v Otago, ITM Cup round 2, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, August 23, 2013
Otago Razorbacks hope to hold the Ranfurly Shield for more than seven days © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Kees Meeuws
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Having won the Ranfurly Shield for the first time in 56 years, Otago are fortunate to have experience of crafting a successful defence in the shape of assistant coach Kees Meeuws. The former Otago, Auckland, Blues and All Blacks prop appreciates intimately what victory over Waikato last week to win the shield means to the province as a whole. But he also knows, as a result of his time in Auckland, what it means to secure the trophy for a lengthy tenure.

"Defending the shield with Auckland was a little bit different," Meeuws said. "They had the shield for that long period in the 1980s and 1990s. But in a community like Otago, where it hasn't been for 56 years, you can see what it means to the public."

That was hit home to the side on their arrival back in Dunedin, when two of Meeuws' team-mates, David Latta and Richard Knight, who had earlier handed jerseys out to the players before games, greeted the Razorbacks players at the airport. "Having them meet the boys at the airport hit home just how special their achievement was," Meeuws said.

Otago won the Ranfurly Shield from Waikato, 26-19, because of the "genuine belief in one another", Meeuws said. "We were written off 18 months ago. But through all the bad news about the union's worries, they kept turning up to train and to play. That whole attribute filtered down through the team and into our local club rugby. They know what it is like to have been in this position."

The task now is to retain the Ranfurly Shield, and Meeuws says first challengers Hawke's Bay will be dangerous. "They are pretty similar to us, they haven't had the shield since the 1960s, and they will be determined," he said, noting that his players celebrated appropriately last weekend while realising the defence of the trophy is harder than the initial victory.

Meeuws said that Otago had prepared for Hawke's Bay in a fashion similar to that for Waikato, having not concentrated on the shield during their build-up to avoid wasting emotional resources better used on the field.

© Sportal

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