Harbour swim for Hori ahead of big game

 Bay of Plenty rugby mascot Hori BOP plans to swim Tauranga Harbour before Sunday's match between the Steamers and Waikato.  Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Bay of Plenty rugby mascot Hori BOP plans to swim Tauranga Harbour before Sunday’s match between the Steamers and Waikato. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services

He may be backing the Beaver but that’s as far as Hori BOP’s love affair with the Waikato rugby team goes this weekend.

The mad-cap Steamers mascot has vowed to continue his unique tribute to 2011 Rugby World Cup hero Stephen Donald when Bay of Plenty hosts ITM Cup neighbours Waikato in Tauranga on Sunday, despite Donald missing out on Waikato’s playing 23.

For each of the past four years, Hori – aka Tauranga identity Terry Leaming – has endured a freezing mid-winter swim to commemorate ‘National Beaver Day’.  He’s swum the Waikato River three times before Bay of Plenty v Waikato matches, adding in Otago Harbour in 2012 when the southern union was in financial strife.

This Sunday, Leaming will swim across Tauranga Harbour, grab a pie and some fish n chips, then wander up to the Tauranga Domain to perform sideline duties.

“It’s fair to say the water is bloody freezing at the moment but it’s my way of honouring the Beaver, who went through hell and back before the World Cup final,” Leaming bellowed.

He had considered skipping this year’s swim but Donald re-signing with Waikato last week – after four years in Europe and Japan – was all the motivation he needed.

Now the colorful colossus is using the opportunity to give All Black coaches a stern message, with the 2015 World Cup squad also named on Sunday.

“It’s a sign from the heavens – all the stars are aligning and this would’ve been the news Shag Hansen was waiting for. I’m sorry, Colin Slade, but they’d be bloody mad if they don’t pick the Beaver and I’ll be gutted – with every pun intended – if he doesn’t make the plane to England.”

Leaming has promised to shout Donald a whitebait fritter if the first-five turns up to watch his swim before the match. Donald was famously whitebaiting up the Waikato River when called late into the 2011 final, where his match-winning penalty – and a poorly-fitting jersey – elevating him to cult status.

“There’ll be no drama with all that lycra tank-top shambles this time around – he can just borrow one of my jerseys.  Crikey, half the backline could fit in that!”

And he’s secretly pleased Donald won’t be playing this weekend, as Leaming expects a red, yellow and black mist to descend once the whistle sounds for kick-off.

“I love the Beaver but for 80mins, I’ll be hating everyone who comes over the Kaimais with a passion.  Anyone ringing one of those god-awful cowbells is heading for a Steam-cleaning on Sunday.”

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Southern hitch for Bay mascot

Bay of Plenty rugby mascot Hori BOP is hitch-hiking to Invercargill this week to catch the match between the Stags and the Steamers.  Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services.
Bay of Plenty rugby mascot Hori BOP is hitch-hiking to Invercargill this week to catch the match between the Stags and the Steamers. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services.

 

Bay of Plenty rugby mascot Hori BOP is celebrating the start of the ITM Cup rugby season with another marathon pilgrimage.
The alter-ego of Tauranga resident Terry Leaming is hitch-hiking 1500km to Invercargill – complete with over-sized ugg boots and sleep apnea machine – to catch Bay of Plenty’s match against Southland on Friday night.
The trip comes two years after a similar ‘Hitching Hikoi’ to Dunedin to support the Otago Rugby Union’s financial woes, although this week also has special resonance for the Steamers fan.
“A lot of people reckon the modern calendar started more than 2000 years ago but any true-blue Bay of Plenty supporter will tell you we’re now in the year 10 – as in, 10 years since we won the Ranfurly Shield,” Leaming explained.
Bay of Plenty beat Auckland to claim the famous Log ‘o Wood for the first time on August 15, 2004, though they haven’t held it since. Leaming hopes his trip will help the team turn around their fortunes, after they were relegated from the ITM Cup Premiership last year. He’s also keeping a nervous eye on the forecast, with a cold snap hitting the deep south this week.
“I haven’t warn shoes for 20 years but I’m seriously considering ditching the jandals for the last leg of the trip. Luckily a mate of mine – who happens to be (Southland All Black) Leicester Rutledge’s cousin – came through with some ugg boots, so that should keep the toes from falling off in the snow.”
Leaming is no stranger to cerebrally-starved stunts. On his Dunedin trip in 2012r, he was hypothermic after an ill-advised dip in Otago Harbour, while gee’s also swum across the Waikato River for the last three years to commemorate Stephen Donald’s World Cup-winning kick.
Given the forecast, he’ll probably give Foveaux Strait a miss on this particular escapade, preferring not to detract from the rugby.
“I want to wake New Zealanders up to the start of the world’s greatest rugby competition. The ITM Cup is huge and it means so much to so many people – and I’m hoping at least some of them stop to pick me up in the next few days!”
Leaming will leave on Wednesday morning, hoping to arrive in Invercargill before kick-off at 7.35pm on Friday night.

 

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/103204926″>Hori heads to Southland</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user15599219″>Dscribe Media Services</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>