The curtain falls on the 2019 College Rugby season with this weekend’s 33rd playing of the NZSSCondor 7s tournament. Fifty-six sides will descend on Auckland’s King’s College, who have succeeded Sacred Heart as hosts for the next two years.
In the Boys division, 31 teams will be out to de-throne Hamilton Boys’ High School, who’s six titles overall include the last four. A fifth straight for the Waikato powerhouse would set a record, breaking the tie for consecutive championships they currently share with Kelston Boys’ High School (2011-14).
As defending champions Hamilton BHS is the seeded side in Pool A, and should have few issues against Southland’s Gore HS, debutant minnows Mercury Area School out of the Thames Valley region, and Whangarei Boys’ High School in progressing to Sunday’s Cup section.
So who are the likely challengers to Hamilton’s crown?
Fellow Super 8 school Rotorua Boys’ High School are past winners and certainly have the pedigree and will be hungry after finishing runners-up to their great rivals last year. Scots College and Feilding HS are both perennial contenders though neither have yet claimed this title, having each been runners-up three times.
Feilding were beaten quarter-finalists a year ago while Scots fell at the semi-finals, both beaten by Rotorua. However these three all face appreciably different assignments just to make the Cup section; Rotorua are drawn in a tough Pool C with National XV’s Champions Hastings Boys’, 2018 quarter-finalists De La Salle College, and Rangitoto College, with Feilding in Pool D alongside 2018 semi-finalists Sacred Heart, past winners Wesley College, and Christchurch Boys’. By contrast Scots will face St Peter’s, Whanganui Collegiate, and Manurewa HS.
Outside of the aforementioned Hastings, Sacred Heart, and De La Salle consider the likes of Timaru Boys’ High School (quarter-finalists the last two years), past winners Kelston and Mt Albert Grammar, Taranaki pair New Plymouth Boys’ High and Francis Douglas, and local side Aorere College. The format is brutal though as without any crossover games only the pool winners will proceed to the Cup section, which will leave some very good sides consigned to the Bowl and Plate sections for Sunday. As one example Rotorua and Hastings will clash in their very first game of the weekend.
Four schools; Otago duo Otago Boys’ and Kings HS, past winners Gisborne Boys’, and Westlake Boys’ have all declined their places after qualifying at the regional stage. Their places have been taken by St Peter’s Auckland, Howick College, Pukekohe HS, and Christchurch’s Shirley Boys’.
Across in the Girls division, Hamilton Girls’ High have been almost as dominant as their city counterparts winning three titles in the past five years and being runners-up in the other two, and it’s hard to look past them as favourites once again.
The chief challengers include some familiar names; 2016 winners St Mary’s (Wellington) have re-tooled while Christchurch Girls’ have been finalists and semi-finalists the past two years and have recent Top 4 15s rugby experience, and Manawatu school Manukura have been in the Cup picture as well. Howick College were perhaps a surprising winner last year but expect them to put up a stout defence of their title.
With the Girls game still in a somewhat evolving stage, there’s a host of change from last year's field. For example three schools that made the Cup quarters last year – Gisborne Girls’, Putaruru College, and Sacred Heart New Plymouth – have failed to return in 2019; while others make their debut. That group includes Wellington’s Queen Margaret College, Inglewood HS, Waikato Diocesan, Paeroa College, and Taupo-nui-a-Tia College.
Somewhat bizarrely and without any real explanation from the organisers, the Girls draw has not only last year's finalists both in the same pool but also playing each other first-up. In fact Pool B seems inordinately strong, with not just Hamilton and Howick but Southland and New Plymouth Girls’ High’s as well. However, with just 24 teams in six pools a loss in pool play may not prove fatal to a side’s title chances as two “lucky losers” will join the pool winners in progressing to Sunday’s Cup round.
The Condor’s tournament got underway today with the two-day Under 15 editions, whereas with the senior event Hamilton Boys’ High and Howick College are the respective defending champions.
Open Tournament Pools
Pool A: Hamilton BHS (Wai), Whangarei BHS (Nth), Mercury Bay School (TV), Gore HS (Sth)
Pool B: Tauranga BHS (BoP), Marlborough BC (Tas), Aorere College (Akl), Kings College (Akl)
Pool C: Rotorua BHS (BoP), Hastings BHS (HB), De La Salle College (Akl), Rangitoto Coll (NH)
Pool D: Scots College (Wgn), St Peter’s (Akl), Wanganui Collegiate (Wan), Manurewa HS (C-M)
Pool E: Feilding HS (Man), Wesley College (C-M), Christchurch BHS (Can), Sacred Heart (Akl)
Pool F: Francis Douglas (Tar), Mt Albert GS (Akl), Pukekohe HS (C-M), Kerikeri HS (Nth)
Pool G: New Plymouth BHS (Tar), Kelston BHS (Akl), Lindisfarne College (HB), Shirley BHS (Can)
Pool H: Timaru BHS (SC), St Pats Town (Wgn), Palmerston North BHS (Man), Howick College (Akl)
Pool A: Mt Albert GS (Akl), Whangarei GHS (Nth), Waikato Diocesan (Wai), Paeroa College (TV)
Pool B: Howick College (Akl), Hamilton GHS (Wai), Southland GHS (Sth), New Plymouth GHS (Tar)
Pool C: Manukura (Man), Feilding HS (Man), Kerikeri HS (Nth), Taupo-nui-a-Tia College (KC)
Pool D: Christchurch GHS (Can), Aorere College (Akl), Long Bay College (NH), Tauranga GC (BoP)
Pool E: St Mary’s College (Wgn), Manurewa HS (C-M), Westlake GHS (NH), Inglewood HS (Tar)
Pool F: Motueka HS (Tas), Wesley College (C-M), Lytton HS (PB), Queen Margaret College (Wgn)
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand