The Steamers have named a strong side to take on Auckland in round three of the ITM Cup at Eden Park tomorrow from 2.35pm.
Up for grabs are crucial competition points and the John Drake Boot - in memory of the former All Blacks prop - which the Steamers hold after last year's outstanding 37-16 win over Auckland in Rotorua.
Flanker Sam Cane has been released by the All Blacks selectors and will form a potent loose forwards trio with his old school mate Carl Axtens at No8 and Queensland Reds flyer Beau Robinson.
Head coach Kevin Schuler said they were not expecting Cane to play this season so it was a real bonus to have him in the team tomorrow.
"It is great to get him back in the fold even if it's only for a short time," Schuler said.
"Sam has been working hard on getting up to speed with our lineout calls and the boys are excited about playing alongside an All Black."
The back three of fullback Dave Thomas and wingers Tino Nemani and Kimami Sitauti are as good as any in the competition with speed to burn.
Schuler is excited about their potential.
"They have some size and some real attacking prowess. They are all strong defenders in their own right. Dave and Tino know each other pretty well and Kimami has fitted in really well with the group. It is a luxury really because we also have Steve Honey playing really, really well. We are trying to build a bit of depth at the back there."
The downside from the win over Hawke's Bay was the citing of lock Culum Retallick for an apparent lifting tackle and subsequent two week ban handed out to him.
Schuler and the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union have taken the decision on the chin and moved on.
"I certainly have my views. It was far more of a drive through than a lifting tackle but that is what the judiciary is there for and we just have to move on really," Schuler said.
"Culum has never had any issues in the past so it is just unfortunate but it gives Johan [Bardoul] a chance."
The second half performance against Hawke's Bay on Sunday showed what the Steamers are capable of and the sort of rugby they want to play. "The ability to stay calm and composed and just get on with our game was good, and the fact that we just held on to the ball and did the right stuff to get results was significant," Schuler said.
"We attacked at the right times and attacked the right space. Obviously our forwards did a lot of hard work to set up the platform, our lineout was pretty strong and our scrum was very dominant. We sent a message to the rest of the comp in that area which I think is great."
All the stats...
Bay of Plenty v Auckland
Tomorrow, 2.35pm, Eden Park, Auckland
Played: 58, 1912-2012; Bay of Plenty wins: 12; Auckland wins: 46.
Last match: Bay of Plenty 37 Auckland 16, 14.09.12 in Rotorua (ITMC).
Last Auckland win: Auckland 25 Bay of Plenty 16, 20.08.11 in Auckland (ITMC).
Biggest Bay of Plenty score: 37 (37-16), 16.09.12 in Rotorua (ITMC).
Biggest Auckland score: 65 (65-9), 29.09.84 in Rotorua (NPC).
Biggest differential: Auckland by 56 (65-9), 29.09.84 in Rotorua (NPC).
Bay of Plenty
1 Kane Hames, 2 Joe Royal, 3 Pingi Talapitaga, 4 Johan Bardoul (debut), 5 Keepa Mewett, 6 Sam Cane, 7 Beau Robinson, 8 Carl Axtens (v-capt), 9 Samisoni Fisilau, 10 Willie Ripia, 11 Kimami Sitauti, 12 Sam Beard, 13 Brett Mather, 14 Tino Nemani, 15 Dave Thomas. Reserves: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Beau Williams, 19 Joe Tupe, 20 Josh Hall, 21 Nick Evemy, 2 Junior Tofa-Va'a.
Charles Piutau, George Moala, Malakai Fekitoa, Hadleigh Parkes (c), Lolagi Visinia, Simon Hickey, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Sean Polwart, Patrick Tuipulotu, Liaki Moli, Angus Ta'avao, Keven Mealamu, Sam Prattley. Reserves: Tom McCartney, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Jack Whetton, Sean Brookman, Junior Poluleiligaga, Vince Aso, Tenina Sauileoge.