Rugby fans as far afield as Hong Kong will be in the crowd during this weekend’s Super Rugby pre-season game between the Hurricanes and the Crusaders at Mangatainoka.

“We’ve been absolutely stoked with the level of support for this year’s game in terms of attracting rugby fans from all around the country and for the first time, this year, from overseas,” says Tui Brewery commercial manager Nick Rogers who has championed all three sold out games at Mangatainoka in as many years. “We’ve been sending tickets as far south as Christchurch, as far north as Auckland, a couple to Australia and two to Hong Kong.”

Of the 8023 punters that will be in attendance at Saturday’s game, two fans will make the long journey from Hong Kong. Husband and wife Greg and Iris Beggs, will make a special trip to the small township of Mangatainoka after reading about the pre-season game on an online search. The couple says they were attracted by the game’s grass roots rugby reputation and having the opportunity to see some Rugby World Cup champions up close.

“We are fans of champion teams and champion players so we are coming along to see where they breed World Champions,” says Greg Beggs, who will be visiting New Zealand for the first time. “It will hopefully be a great day of back to roots rugby where we can be close to the play and really see all the effort and almost feel the pain.”

Greg, an Australian air traffic controller who has been living and working in Hong Kong for the last 15 years, says he takes in live rugby whenever he gets the chance. He admits his wife Iris, also an air traffic controller, “knows and refs the game better than I do.”

“Iris and I love the game live. We go to the Hong Kong Rugby 7's each year, each Asian 5 Nations games played here and for the last two years we’ve got to see the All Blacks take on the Wallabies here in HK,” he says. “The A5N games are played at the local football club in front of around 3000 people and you sit about 5m from the side line. These games are a fantastic afternoon out where you are up close to the action, eat meat pies, have a few beers and really enjoy the atmosphere of the rugby community; this is our biggest hope for Mangatainoka.”

Despite not knowing much about either of the Crusaders or the Hurricanes franchises, Greg says this trip is all about experiencing the magic of New Zealand with rugby “a very nice cherry on top”.

This Saturday’s game, which kicks off at 3pm, is expected to go down in grass roots rugby folklore. It will be played on Neil ‘Skin’ Symonds' farm next to Tui Brewery, which has been transformed from a bare paddock into a ground befitting the quality of Super Rugby players. It will also see the local community rally together to host over 8000 rugby fans.

Timeline for February 11th, 2012

12.30pm         Gates Open

1.00pm           Tui Invitation XV vs Mangatainoka RFC Invitation XV

3.00pm           Hurricanes vs Crusaders.

5.00pm           Close for GA

5.45pm           After-match speeches and VIP entertainment

7.00pm           Mangatainoka tent village closes for VIP’s