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Motueka added to Mako home match venues

Mako captain David Havili is one of several Golden Bay-Motueka products in the current Tasman set-up.
DEREK FLYNN/STUFF
Mako captain David Havili is one of several Golden Bay-Motueka products in the current Tasman set-up.

It's taken 14 years, but the Tasman Mako will finally run out on Motueka's hallowed rugby turf. 

The 2020 Mitre 10 Cup draw was released on Friday with Tasman's quest to defend its 2019 title kicking off on August 8 with an away match against Counties Manukau.

Tasman's home schedule sees two games each allocated to Blenheim and Nelson, with an inaugural regular season game awarded to Motueka for the September 19 clash with Southland. 

Some of the large crowd at the Super Rugby pre-season game between the Crusaders and Hurricanes, held at Sportspark Motueka in January 2008. A similar crowd is expected for the Tasman Mako home game against Southland this year.
EVAN BARNES
Some of the large crowd at the Super Rugby pre-season game between the Crusaders and Hurricanes, held at Sportspark Motueka in January 2008. A similar crowd is expected for the Tasman Mako home game against Southland this year.

The match at Sports Park Motueka - formerly Rugby Park - will celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Golden Bay-Motueka Union, which played as a separate province from 1920 until it was absorbed into the Nelson Bays amalgamation for the 1968 season. 

Current Mako players Ethan Blackadder, Quinten Strange and David Havili are products of the area, as well as retired All Black and Mako Wyatt Crockett, 1972-73 All Black Trevor Morris and Former Prime Minister Keith Holyoake.

Tasman Mako players will wear a commemorative Golden Bay-Motueka jersey, similar to the one pictured,  for the September 6 match against Southland.
MARION VAN DIJK
Tasman Mako players will wear a commemorative Golden Bay-Motueka jersey, similar to the one pictured, for the September 6 match against Southland.

The Mako will wear a commemorative jersey for the match in the union's brown and white hoops, a strip still worn by primary school representative teams.

Tasman Rugby Union chief executive Tony Lewis said as well as the 100-year milestone, the match offered a chance to acknowledge the support of sponsors and fans within the district.

"We also thought the Southland game would be good in the sense they are from rural New Zealand as well."

"All round we're Motueka has put on a good show for the Crusaders and we think they'll do a great show for this one."

The announcement of a Motueka home game has also been welcomed by one of the town's great rugby servants.

George Sturgeon is a former Nelson Bays coach and life member of the Tasman sub-union.

He said the occasion would be a fitting way to acknowledge Golden Bay-Motueka's contribution to the local rugby landscape.  

Previous Crusaders pre-season games at Motueka in 2008, 2010 and 2014 attracted between 6,500 and 10,000 fans on each occasion. 

Having played a role in getting those fixtures across the line, Sturgeon said he expected a large crowd from the top of the south, Buller and the West Coast to travel across for the game.

"It is going to be very special - especially for the oldies who've worn that jersey in the past - I'll tell you now, people will still be drinking in town on the Monday."

Blenheim's Lansdowne Park will host the Mako fixture against Northland on August 13 as well as the October 4 derby with Canterbury.

Nelson's two scheduled home matches are against Waikato on August 22 and last year's championship winners Bay of Plenty on September 6.

While back-to-back premierships will be the main focus of season 2020, Tasman's lean run of Ranfurly Shield challenges has continued for another season. 

Heartland neighbours Buller have secured a pre-season Ranfurly Shield challenge against Canterbury on July 11, and Meads Cup champions North Otago will have its chance the following weekend. Should Canterbury see off those challenges they will defend the Shield against Taranaki, Wellington, Waikato, Otago and Auckland in the Mitre 10 Cup. 

With the Log of Wood traditionally on the line for the holders home matches during the Mitre 10 Cup competition, Tasman may have to rely on Canterbury losing to Wellington in week four and hope the Lions can withstand challenges by Otago and North Harbour in order to have their first shot at glory since 2012, when last year's premiership finalists meet at the Cake Tin on September 26. 

Alternatively, a Taranaki shield win on August 14 and subsequent loss to Auckland three weeks later could see a potential Tasman challenge when the Mako head to Eden Park on September 12. 

At a glance - Tasman Mako Mitre 10 Cup premiership draw for 2020:

Saturday August 8: v Counties Manukau (Away) - 4.35pm

Thursday August 13: v Northland at Lansdowne Park, Blenheim - 7.05pm

Saturday August 22: v Waikato at Trafalgar Park, Nelson - 7.05pm

Sunday August 30: v North Harbour (Away) - 2.05pm

Sunday September 6: v Bay of Plenty at Trafalgar Park, Nelson - 4.35pm

Saturday September 12: v Auckland (Away) - 7.05pm

Saturday September 19: v Southland at Sports Park, Motueka - 2.05pm

Saturday September 26: v Wellington (Away) - 4.35pm

Sunday October 4: v Canterbury at Lansdowne Park, Blenheim - 2.05pm

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