Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Tupe key for Steamers in semifinal showdown

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MR CONSISTENT: Loose forward Joe Tupe has been a star for the Steamers all season. PHOTO:FILE
MR CONSISTENT: Loose forward Joe Tupe has been a star for the Steamers all season. PHOTO:FILE

Bay of Plenty Steamers are just two wins away from winning the Mitre 10 Cup Championship.

Tonight they take on top qualifiers Otago in Dunedin from 7.35pm in one semifinal with Wellington hosting North Harbour tomorrow afternoon.

All Blacks flanker Sam Cane would add a massive boost to the Steamers from the bench in his first game back since a hamstring injury against Argentina on September 10.

Outstanding Steamers No 8 Joe Tupe said the team and coaches learnt plenty from the 33-32 loss to Otago at the Tauranga Domain back in round three.

"We took some big learnings from that game. Just looking at the overall stats over the season, Otago like to kick a lot every game so we have to be on our game and always have someone covering those kicks.," Tupe said.

"A big thing for our season is just closing out games. It always seems to come down to the last 10, 20 minutes and the pressure gets to us.

"I think we have adapted well the last two games which has resulted in two wins so hopefully we can carry that on (tonight).

"Every game we have lost we have lost ourselves really. We have not lost to a better opposition, just too many errors.

"Our tight forwards and set piece has been massive and I can't speak highly enough of them. They are a massive go-forward for our game."

Playing under the covered roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium tonight was another boost for the Steamers who like to play open rugby.

"It definitely suits us," Tupe said.

"All the boys like to play a bit of razzle-dazzle footy so it is pretty good to know you don't need to worry about the conditions. I am just looking forward to some running rugby."

Tupe has been in the best form of his career since he headed to the Bay from Auckland in 2013.

Not since Colin Burke have the Steamers had a No 8 who had been such a dominant presence in every match he played.

His consistently top-class performances were recognised at the annual Bay of Plenty Rugby Awards evening held in Tauranga on Wednesday.

He was presented with the Bay of Plenty Player of the Year and Players Player of the Year Awards in what must have been the most one-sided race in awards history.

Injuries had curtailed Tupe's progress in recent seasons but now he was over them his play had gone to new levels.

"It is a big reason why I have had such a good season.

"Before the season even started I said to myself I am going to look to have a big season, injury free. It has been going pretty good so far for me so no complaints."

His form had caught the attention of Super Rugby coaches in New Zealand and further afield, which was the obvious next level for Tupe to play at.

"Yeah that is always a big goal of mine like every other player out there in the Mitre 10 Cup. Hopefully I will get a shot."

Bay of Plenty Steamers v Otago

1. Aidan Ross
2. Joseph Royal
3. Siegfried Fisi'ihoi
4. Keepa Mewett
5. Culum Retallick (c)
6. Jesse Parete
7. Henry Stowers
8. Joe Tupe
9. Te Aihe Toma
10. Dan Hollinshead
11. Regan Ware
12. Teddy Stanaway
13. Lalakai Foketi
14. Monty Ioane
15. Isaac Te Aute

Reserves:
16. James O'Reilly
17. Solomona Sakalia
18. Pingi Tala'apitaga
19. Sam Cane
20. Matty Axtens
21. Ruki Tipuna
22. Terrence Hepetema
23. Chase Tiatia

- Bay of Plenty Times

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