4 Sep 2020

North versus South rugby: Mitch's at war in mate against mate

8:59 am on 4 September 2020

Saturday night's North/South rugby match in Wellington has turned team-mates to rivals and friends to foes.

Mitchell Drummond and Mitch Hunt. Highlanders v Crusaders. 2020.

Mitchell Drummond and Mitch Hunt. Highlanders v Crusaders. 2020. Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2020 www.photosport.nz

The North's Mitch Hunt and South's Mitchell Drummond, both born and bred Nelsonians, are desperate to claim bragging rights.

The pair played alongside each other from a young age and became stars in the Nelson College first XV, spending two years together as halfback and first five.

Drummond hasn't made the South matchday 23, but if he does somehow get on, he knows Hunt will be hunting for his old mate.

"If there's any chance of getting a cheap shot on me, there's no doubt he'll be taking it, haha."

Hunt said it would be rude not to.

"You're enemies on the field and then you're straight back to being friends as soon as the whistle goes. But If you're lucky enough to catch them on the ground or in the ruck or something there might be a wee cheeky elbow haha, or a face palm into the grass."

The pair played together at the Crusaders for four years, with Hunt moving into Drummond's house in Christchurch.

"He lived with me for three years," said Drummond. "He lived with me because had to take him under my wing for three years and then he grew up and moved out."

The two were joined in the flat by Crusaders and All Blacks wing George Bridge, who is in the South team for Saturday night.

Hunt believes Bridge had been looked after by his mum a little too well.

"We sort of gave George a bit of stick for not being able to cook and do much around the house. He was definitely the tail of the group haha."

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Photo: Photosport

Drummond said the trio became close and built a friendship that will last a lifetime.

"A few funny stories, but probably not any I can tell you haha. We used to play games of basketball on the playstation to determine who would do the dishes. It was pretty competitive with three Super Rugby players, oh yeah. Especially one of them (Drummond) being a halfback, that didn't help things haha."

That competitiveness will be on display in Wellington on Saturday night, when the Crusaders Bridge and Drummond in the South squad and Hunt, who now plays for the Highlanders, playing for the North.

Bridge is starting on the wing, while Hunt will likely come off the bench at fullback.

So what happens if Bridge breaks free and just has Hunt to beat?

"I like to think Bridgey would get through him, Hunty is only a small man and we keep reminding him of that," joked Drummond.

Though Hunt sees it differently.

"I couldn't let him beat me mate hahaha. Jeez [sic] you'd never live it down if that happened."

The North versus South match is an All Blacks trial in disguise.

Which team you're eligible for is determined by where you made your provincial debut, rather than which High School you played for, which would have been preferred by many players.

A proud mainlander, Hunt plies his trade with Tasman but played his first game for Auckland, putting him in the North squad.

Hunt has been copping an earful from Drummond, Bridge and others about his supposed defection.

Despite his torn allegiances, Hunt is keen to guide the North to victory and put his former flatmates in their place.

"I've been getting a bit of flak from those boys but also my Tasman Mako teammates. I've been getting a bit of grief from my family saying it's funny being from Nelson that I'm playing for the North so just to win and silence everything around that and to have one up on the boys (Drummond and Bridge) would be good."

If Hunt can help the North get one over the South, he might find himself closer than ever to an international debut, with the first All Blacks team of the year named on Sunday.