PALMERSTON NORTH, New Zealand - The Bucketheads are changing their colours for the Rugby World Cup.
Fans of the rugby team from Manawatu province, which bases itself in this provincial city which is half varsity town, half rural depot, call themselves the Bucketheads, for the plastic buckets they use as headware at local games.
Usually those buckets are green and white, the colours of Manawatu, but when Georgia plays Romania in a World Cup pool match on Wednesday the Bucketheads, 5,000-strong, will adopt the colours of those teams.
"It's beautifully quirky and I think it will be a roaring success," Rugby World Cup chief executive Martin Snedden said. "It will add hugely to the flavour of the night."
The match between European rivals Georgia and Romania will be the first Rugby World Cup match played in Palmerston North since 1987. The township has a population of 75,000 but already the 14,000 tickets to Wednesday's match have been sold and a further 12,000 tickets have been sold to a downtown fanzone where people will watch the match on big screens.
While neither Georgia nor Romania can qualify for the World Cup finals, Snedden said the match was of considerable importance to both teams which have a long and well-established rivalry.
Georgia Prime Minister Nikolaz Gilauri will attend the match at the Manawatu Arena and will stay in the town until Monday.
"For Romania and Georgia to win a game at the Rugby World Cup is a massive achievement. There's just a huge amount of pride on the line," Snedden said. "These are relatively close neighbours in eastern Europe and they would love nothing better than to get one up on the other."
Snedden said the willingness of New Zealanders to support the World Cup's smallest nations had been impressive.
"The attitude of people at matches has been absolutely outstanding. People are getting dressed up, the noise in the grounds is like nothing I've heard at New Zealand grounds before," he said.
Palmerston North hasn't always had a great reputation as a tourist centre. Monty Python star John Cleese performed in the town in 2006 and was scathing in his review of the place.
The town responded by naming the city dump after Cleese.