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Stars of the past return for Otago festival day

Some of the greats of Otago rugby’s past will lock horns again with an old ‘foe’ in a celebrity match at Carisbrook on Saturday as a feature of the Otago Rugby Football Union’s 125th anniversary celebrations.

Players such as Jeff Wilson, Steve Hotton, David Latta and Richard Knight ‘ among many others ‘ will be back out on the rugby field and controlling them with the whistle will be Otago’s nemesis in some critical games, referee Colin Hawke.

It was Hawke who penalised Latta in the Ranfurly Shield challenge in Christchurch in 1994 and so ensured an easy kick for Andrew Mehrtens to keep the shield in Christchurch. And a year later, Hawke was again the central figure when he awarded Auckland a winning penalty try in the last minute of the NPC final.

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‘One of the great things about rugby is that while they hurt at the time, we can all look back on such incidents with a smile, albeit slightly wry,’ Otago chief executive Russell Gray said. ‘Colin has a great sense of humour and we’re grateful that he’s agreed to take part.’Hawke, who now works for the New Zealand Rugby Union, will also be guest speaker at the Otago 125th anniversary dinner on Saturday night.

The former players will be just one group celebrating the anniversary in the leadup to Otago’s Air New Zealand Cup match against Waikato.

‘We’re featuring various segments of Otago rugby on a real festival day,’ Gray said. ‘The Otago Spirit women’s team will play Wellington in their NPC match beginning at 11.15am. That will be followed by the former players celebrity match at 12:50pm and then a march past of junior players before the main event, the Air New Zealand Cup match. Fortuitously, that game is also the highlight of the round because Speight’s Otago are leading their pool with Waikato third.’

The Air New Zealand Cup match between Speight’s Otago and Waikato kicks-off at 2:00pm due to the earlier than usual kick-off time for the Bledisloe Cup match later in the evening.

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