Chris Benson grew up watching Hawke's Bay premier club rugby Maddison Trophy semifinals and finals.
"I never dreamed I would be playing alongside my two brothers in a semifinal," Benson said yesterday.
The loosehead prop will not only start alongside brothers, openside flanker and former Olympic Games swimmer William and fullback David for Hawke's Bay Insurances Limited Napier Old Boys Marist against Carters Frame and Truss Taradale at Taradale today. This trio will be one set of three brothers in the side and the first time this season all eight are available at the same time.
Veteran winger Migao Lauano will start, his brother Johnny will be on the subs bench; Asa Ene and his brother Leo, who both played for Napier Technical's Maddison Trophy-winning team last year, will be NOBM's midfield and their brother Andrew will be a substitute forward.
"Asa and Leo's knowledge is a big plus and Dad's experience helps too," Benson, 23, said referring to his father and former Junior All Black prop Pat who has been on the coaching staff of two of NOBM's Maddison Trophy winning sides and a player for the Napier Marist side which won in 1987.
Just as his father has been over the years Benson was cagey on the style of play NOBM will adopt.
"I don't want to give too much away but we will be relying on our fitness and speed," the Pricewaterhouse Coopers accountant said. "Obviously we can take a lot of confidence out of the 3-all draw we had with Taradale a fortnight ago. We defended our line for 10 minutes before taking play to the halfway line and kicking the penalty to draw."
He agreed his team has a handy halfback-first five-eighth combination in former French Sevens rep Boris Bouhraoua and Liam Rukuwai to replace the Magpies contracted pair of Ellery Wilson and Tyrone Elkington-McDonald. Benson's younger brother, milkman David, is almost as good as the Lauano brothers at keeping things relaxed. "I'm never too serious but I still like to win."
Migao Lauano has played for NOBM premier since 2003 and said the influence of the eight brothers has made this year's side one of the tightest. He is confident they will qualify for the final.
"As long as we keep playing the ball wide and keep it away from the Taradale forwards."
Taradale co-coach Blair Cross is reasonably confident about his side's chances despite losing six players to the Magpies.
"We've got a fair bit of depth and the boys have trained well. At the same time they have the likes of the Ene brothers and No8 Joseph Penitito who can be dangerous ... it will be a good battle."
The fact its Taradale openside flanker Jaaron Fritz' 50th and blazer game will add to the hosts' motivational ammunition.
Progressive Meats Havelock North will host Tanalised Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports in the other semifinal at Anderson Park.
All Black sevens star and Commonwealth Games silver medallist Gillies Kaka will start at fullback for the villagers in the absence of injured Shannan Chase.
Former Magpie Jacob Kennedy replaces the promising Jesse Paewai on the right wing. Paewai will be a sub after turning out for the Havelock colts in their semifinal against Central.
The Pirate side is expected to be similar to the one which lost 27-11 to the villagers last week.
Experienced lock and former Hawks basketballer Roger McPherson will be given until this afternoon to pass a fitness test on a hamstring niggle.
Experienced prop Kelsey Miller is expected to get game time off the pine.
The Pirate backs will have to create better space for their dangerous winger Brynn Uriarau than they did last weekend if they are to cause an upset.
For the HB premier men's club semifinals today:
Havelock North: Gillies Kaka, Jacob Kennedy, Adam Bradey, Kalin Paewai, Johnny Robin, J'ndre Liebenberg, Isaac Paewai, Luke Ottley, Isaiah Renata, Liam Murphy, Richard Tichborne, George Phillip, Kelly Petrowski, Emmanuel Maui, Miles Anderson.
Substitutes, forwards: Matt Phillips, Matt Middleton, Bronson Primmer, Veti Latu/Andrew Burne. Backs: Junior Armstrong, Ethan Bradey, Jesse Paewai.
Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports: Ted Symes, Brynn Uriarau, Matt Hill, Jackson Neilson, Ben Toombs, David Neilson, Matt Murtha, Aaron McPhee, Gerome Naera, Tom Nicoll, Matt Brown, Roger McPherson/Manihera White, Sean Morrison, Hamish Willis, Conrad Rieter.
Substitutes, forwards: Kelsey Miller, Johnny Morrison, Nick Agnew, James Wairau. Backs: Casey Rangi, Jarrod McCarthy.
Taradale: Andrew Wilson, Nick Martin, Nick Biss, Uta Tupuola, Tommy McIntyre, Manihera Eden, Karl Hewitt, Kaleb Sweet, Jaaron Fritz, Andrew Gardner (captain), Scott Wielinga, Angelo Mufana, Mike McLachlan, Michelangelo Sosene-Feagai, Ezrah Amituanai.
Substitutes, forwards: Carl Lawson, Joe Simeon, Elijah Martin, Reon Watts, Jacob Baker. Backs: Wade Woolley, Zane Hohepa.
Napier Old Boys' Marist: David Benson, Migao Lauano, Leo Ene, Asa Ene, Logan Donaldson, Liam Rukuwai, Boris Bouhraoua, Joseph Penitito, William Benson, Pouvi Fatialofa, Andrew Robinson, Sean Skeet, Jarvy Aoake (captain), Terry Marsh, Chris Benson.
Substitutes, forwards: Laulu Taa, Mike King, Tom Bywater, Andrew Ene. Backs: Johnny Lauano, Mitch Lamb, Sam Driver.