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Meeuws passes on Shield know-how

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Sportal.co.nz     30 Aug 2013     Getty Images

Otago is fortunate that it has that on hand in the shape of assistant coach Kees Meeuws, the former Otago, Auckland, Blues and All Blacks prop.

Because of his attachment to the region that nurtured his rugby career, Meeuws can well understand just what taking the Ranfurly Shield off Waikato has meant to the province as a whole.

He also knows, as a result of his time in Auckland, what it means to secure the trophy for a lengthy tenure.

Most importantly, Meeuws says the Otago players celebrated their feat appropriately at the weekend but says the realisation was there that having secured the Shield the hard part begins.

"Defending the Shield with Auckland was a little bit different. They had the Shield for that long period in the 1980s and 1990s.

"But in a community like Otago, where it hasn't been for 56 years, you can see what it means to the public," he said.

That was hit home to the side in their arrival back in Dunedin and poignant amongst that was the greeting offered by two of Meeuws' team-mates, David Latta and Richard Knight who had earlier handed jerseys out to the players before games.

"Having them meet the boys at the airport hit home just how special their achievement was," Meeuws said.

What had allowed Otago to come through so well to take the Shield off Waikato was the fact that there was a genuine belief in one another.

"We were written off 18 months ago. But through all the bad news about the union's worries they kept turning up to train and to play. That whole attribute filtered down through the team and into our local club rugby.

"They know what it is like to have been in this position," he said.

However, the task was now to acquire another skill in retaining the Shield.

First challengers Hawke's Bay would be dangerous.

"They are pretty similar to us, they haven't had the Shield since the 1960s, and they will be determined," he said.

One aspect of the contest that Meeuws will enjoy will be the scrummaging. Changes to the laws have taken the contest back to that akin to the time when he played and while it would take time for it to bed in, Meeuws said it was the teams who settled first who would be in the best position to take advantage.

It was important to be settle and to get in a good pushing position. Some teams were still attempting to get the big hit but that approach inevitably meant the scrums would go down.

"The more times they play with it, they will realise what is required.

"It brings back the contest of the scrummagers and what we have is pretty similar to what the Europeans, the French and the English do. They are not so worried about the hit and it is up the guys up front to do the job then, with good support from the locks and loosies," he said.

Meeuws said Otago's preparation was similar to last week's. They hadn't concentrated on the Shield during their build-up and that was the same this week.

Doing that could result in emotion draining the players and Meeuws said coach Tony Brown's view was that it should be on the field that the emotion came to the fore.

It proved a winning formula last week against Waikato and diehard Otago fans will be hoping that it does the trick again this time around.