A prize pool of more than $15,000 awaits teams at this weekend’s annual January touch tournament in Whakatane.

Seventy-two teams will fill 18 fields over two days in what organisers say is the largest touch tournament in the Southern Hemisphere.

Whakatane Touch president Mike Te Kurapa, who was busy marking out the fields when contacted by the Rotorua Daily Post yesterday, said the tournament had a strong tradition of attracting teams that return every year.

One team, X-Factor from Hamilton, are set to stay at Te Kurapa’s house in their 25th straight trip to the Whakatane tournament.

Tournament director George Rogers said it was difficult to pick favourites in any of the divisions.

“About 10 years ago we could pick it, but now teams change their names so they don’t get targeted.”

Action starts at 6pm tomorrow, with a shootout tournament.

Teams will start with five players apiece before losing players at regular intervals. The team that scores first wins, with all sides receiving one life each before they are knocked out.

If the shootout champion goes through unbeaten they will scoop 100 per cent of the prize pool, with the split falling to 60/40 per cent should the champions drop a match.

Saturday’s action will see men’s and women’s open grades as well as restricted men’s, women’s and open divisions for players who do not play representative touch.

This year’s tournament is without a team from the South Island but two teams from Sydney are making the trip.

Action starts at 6pm tomorrow and 10.30am on Saturday, with finals set for 5.20pm.

Rotorua Daily Post