24 Oct 2014

Rugby fever grips Taranaki

10:20 am on 24 October 2014

New Plymouth has been gripped by rugby fever ahead of Taranaki's attempt to make history tomorrow night and win the National Provincial title for the first time.

Taranaki Rugby Team

The Taranaki Rugby Team prepare for their National Provincial final. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

More than 17,000 tickets have already been snapped up for the ITM Cup final against Tasman and it's hoped the 'sold out' signs will go up at Yarrow Stadium.

The co-owner of the Canterbury Store in New Plymouth, Matt Clarke, said replica Taranaki playing strips have been flying off the shelves this week.

"It's been phenomenal to be honest, just can't really keep up. I wish I'd predicted (Taranaki getting through), we had a lot of stock but still not quite enough so I've got a couple of boxes turning up shortly and one final delivery for Friday."

Mr Clarke said the fans had a clear favourite item amongst the supporters gear on sale.

"The home replica jersey, it's the main amber and black hooped jersey. It's very traditional, it's been the one that everyone wants."

Publican Bertie Burleigh, who owns Peggy Gordon's Celtic Bar, was predicting a Taranaki victory and a busy night for the city's hospitality industry.

"Town will kick into gear after the game. You get one chance at this Taranaki and it's going to be a long time before we see this kind of thing again.

"I'd love to see town ramp into action, we've got a band, the bar's all decorated, the staff will be onto it and we've got plenty of beer so have a go at drinking us dry, we'll take it on."

Match could be worth $4.5m - Venture Taranaki

Venture Taranaki, the region's promotional arm, said Labour Weekend was always very busy in New Plymouth but there were still a handful of hotel rooms available.

It reckoned hosting the final could be worth up to $4.5 million to the region.

The Taranaki coach, Colin Cooper, meanwhile, has been keeping his players focused on the task at hand and trying not to buy into the hype around the match.

"We've just tried to stick to process, stick to what's got us here rather than adding to the emotion. I think the crowd and the atmosphere and the occasion will life these guys so there doesn't have to be a big 'why?' their big why is to win it for the first time and make some history here."

Cooper said he was hoping for more of the same passionate home support that helped Taranaki secure an extra time win in the semi-final against Auckland last week.

"There was only around 10,000 people in the stadium but you would've thought there was 30,000 with the volume and the intensity and the energy that was coming from the crowd.

"I think it was really noticeable when we scored the first try (in extra time) the crowd really got behind us and Auckland visibly wilted. That's the advantage of having a home to bring us home, and I do believe that that was the difference."

The significance of the match was not lost on prop Angus Ta'avao.

"A lot of players might never get the chance to experience this and we've got the chance to play in a final, the first time ever for Taranaki, and it's at home as well. So there's history to be made, two great teams it should be a great match and were just really excited."

A recruit from the Blues, Ta'avao, said there was a special bond amongst the players and staff at Taranaki, which lies behind their success.

"Aw mate, we're just a really tight group right from the players right up to the office.

"Everyone's got a real great belief in what we are trying to do here what Coops (head coach Colin Cooper), (assistant coach) Leo Crowley and (skills coach) Willie Rickards are pushing for us and we're just really proud to represent this region."

About 200 Makos supporters are expected in the stadium for the match but word on the street here is there can only be one winner - Taranaki.

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