Karl Lowe has promised a winning apology from the Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby side in tonight's "Battle of the Bays" at Napier's McLean Park.
"We need a big one for the crowd. We have let them down in our performance, we have to repay them and get our season back on track," Lowe said after yesterday's Captain's Run on the eve of the sixth round ITM Cup Premiership clash against the Bay of Plenty Steamers.
The Hurricanes and former New Zealand Maori openside flanker, the most experienced Magpie in this season's squad with 86 first-class appearances, has been part of a Magpies loose forward trio which hasn't functioned as well at breakdown time in recent weeks.
"We've placed a big focus on the breakdown this week. There's been a big emphasis on fixing our problems and stepping up what we can bring at breakdown time ... the boys are hungry," Lowe said.
Lowe, captain and No8 Mike Coman and blindside flanker Tivaini Fomai will have to be sharp at breakdown time. The Steamers will, as expected, field three No7s in their loose trio with All Black Sam Cane at openside, captain and former All Black Tanerau Latimer at blindside and Luke Braid at No 8.
"We've got a good loose trio too ... Tivaini [Fomai] is very good over the ball, just as good as anybody in the country," Lowe said referring to Fomai who will make his first starting XV appearance of the season in the absence of the injured Trent Boswell-Wakefield.
Lowe agreed a top display against such a formidable trio will keep him on target for a fifth season of Super Rugby.
"While I'm still contracted to the Canes you still have to make the 30. You can't be complacent ... you have to stay on your toes," Lowe said.
Complacency is something Lowe can't be accused of having during his career with the Magpies which began in 2004.
"I never thought I would play this many games when I was first picked. I've enjoyed every moment ... I'm passionate about the jersey," Lowe said.
The father of three who celebrated his 28th birthday on Monday, has blamed the short turnarounds on the Magpies patchy form to date.
"Every week is different. There's been times when we've gone to sleep in games, switched on and then gone to sleep again. That won't happen tomorrow night," he added.
Magpies coach Craig Philpott is confident his loose trio, with two No7s in Lowe and Fomai, will compete with the Steamers one.
"The fact they have three No7s will create opportunities for us elsewhere like at set piece time," Philpott said.
He has dropped former All Blacks training squad member and Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna from the 22 for tonight and he said the decision was form-related. Former Crusaders prop Pete Borlase will start at tighthead and Brendon Edmonds will be the substitute prop.
With Crusaders winger Zac Guildford and Chiefs winger Tino Nemani both on the injured list, Philpott has promoted Academy squad member and Hawke's Bay Under-20s winger Penikolo Latu who will start on the left wing.
"Were looking to Peni to provide the form, excitement, energy and spark we saw from him in our trial at Waipukurau," Philpott said.
Latu will mark former All Black Lelia Masaga who often attempts to bust through an opponent than go around.
He may regret this approach to Latu.
"It's good to be given the opportunity at this level so early in my career.
"I just have to give it my best shot and see if I can stay in the squad," Latu said.
He agreed Latu will be the biggest name opponent he has marked since leaving Gisborne Boys' High School last year.
"Masaga is a really strong player who will test my defensive skills which I have been working hard on," Latu added.
Along with Nemani, Guildford and Boswell-Wakefield, loose Adam Bradey and utility back Richard Buckman, remain on the Magpies injured list. Should Magpies substitute lock Tom Parsons get game time off the bench tonight it will be his Cup debut.
Like the Magpies, the Steamers, won't lack motivation tonight. While the Steamers, like the Magpies, will be eager to steer clear of the relegation zone they will be eager to gain revenge for a 32-13 loss last year.
That loss in Rotorua came on a day when the Bay of Plenty union was having the official formalities of their centennial year celebrations. Like the Magpies, the Steamers, will also have a debutmaker in the No11 jersey in Maru Henry.