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Pitch transformation under way

Farmer Kerry Fergus, left, and Nick Rogers from Tui Brewery assess the Mangatainoka pitch ahead of the Hurricanes match on February 9. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Rain has brought a huge smile to the face of rugby-mad Mangatainoka farmer Kerry Fergus.

He has already begun transforming a bare paddock into a top-notch playing surface ahead of next year’s Super Rugby pre-season game between the Hurricanes and the Blues.

Fergus leases the farm on which the Mangatainoka Rugby Football Club grounds are located and has spent the past few weeks prepping a paddock so it’s ready for the Battle at the Brewery game to be held on Saturday, February 9.

The Super Rugby pre-season game, organised by Tui Brewery, is returning to the small town for the first time since 2013 and Fergus has been rolling the pitch and had plans to start irrigating it until Mother Nature intervened.

“Two weeks ago, the paddock was pretty dry but thanks to this rain we’ve managed to push any irrigation out,” says the former Mangatainoka RFC No 8 and halfback.

“It’s been rolled several times and I’m now about to spray it and put the fertiliser on, before mowing begins.

“Come next year we’ll keep it watered and looking tidy before putting up the temporary grandstand . . . it should come up looking terrific.”

Like much of the community, Fergus remembers fondly the first time the Hurricanes stepped out on the Mangatainoka RFC turf.

“We’re damn lucky to have the Hurricanes return after this hiatus and it just puts the biggest smile on my face as back in 2010 when news broke that they would play here . . . no one believed me . . . not even my own family,” he said.

“But once the news spread the local marae and schools just got completely behind it.

“That first game was held in a howling southerly and boy did it rain. I’ll never forget that the local Plunket only sold two bottles of water for the whole day – [but] in town, all the wet weather gear completely sold out of all the shops.”

Fergus, who has farmed in the district all his life, is proud that the games put Mangatainoka on the map and celebrate the small township [population 1560, Census 2013].

He says the events also help celebrate community spirit.

Nick Rogers, who runs the visitor experience at Tui Brewery originally came up with the idea to bring the Hurricanes to town, and organised $60,000 of fundraising to help save the historic wooden Mangatainoka RFC grandstand with the support of Alistair MacDougall and Fergus.

“Come February 9, the ground will be in good order,” Fergus says. “There should be solid grass coverage which will make for a carpet for all the players.”

Tickets for the game are on sale and numbers have been limited to create a more intimate atmosphere.

Rogers says tickets for the game are selling fast and proving popular as gifts for Christmas.

General admission tickets are $45 before Christmas, and $50 after December 25.

Corporate packages and supporters packs are available, with children’s tickets $20.

All tickets are available from: www.tuihq.co.nz or at Tui Brewery.

GA tickets are available from PGG Wrightson and Norwood Stores.

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