Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby wing Robbie Fruean will be in dedication mode when he makes his first Mitre 10 Cup appearance of the season tonight.
"I want to dedicate my performance to the family of a good friend of mine down in Wellington. His father died last week and I went down for the funeral yesterday," Fruean said before the Magpies' afternoon training session on Tuesday.
"I won't name my mate but he and I went through the Wellington Academy together and played a lot of rep rugby together," Fruean recalled.
Tonight's third round Premiership encounter against the Counties-Manukau Steelers will be Fruean's fourth match of the year.
He played a club game in Christchurch while on Crusaders duty, came off the bench for the Hawke's Bay Saracens in a loss to Manawatu Evergreens at Napier's McLean Park on August 6 and then had 80 minutes for the Saracens in their 62-31 loss to Manawatu Development at Napier's Park Island on Saturday.
One could understand if the former Porirua College head boy was feeling a little frustrated. But this bloke is used to lengthy stints on the sideline and deals with them admirably.
"I've just been biding my time," Fruean said.
A damaged pectoral muscle collected during the Christmas break prevented him from playing during the early stages of the Super Rugby season. Then thyroid gland issues sidelined him during the business end of the campaign.
Fruean, 28, was named the IRB under-19 player of the year in 2007 after playing a key role in New Zealand's world title win.
The same year he played 12 games for Wellington before having open-heart surgery after contracting rheumatic fever.
He returned to rugby in 2009 and since then has played for the Hurricanes, Crusaders and Chiefs on the Super scene and Canterbury at NPC level before transferring to Hawke's Bay in 2014. The 2012 ITM Cup player of the year described last weekend's Park Island game as "a bit stop-start".
"It was good to get through 80 minutes and I will push myself for 80 against the Steelers if the coaches want me to," Fruean said.
Fruean will mark former All Black Sevens star Sherwin Stowers, who was one of the Steelers' heroes when they beat the Magpies 27-24 to capture the Ranfurly Shield at McLean Park in 2013.
Steelers head coach and former Black Ferns mentor Darryl Suasua has retained the same starting XV used in Sunday's win against Bay of Plenty in Pukekohe.
Two-test All Black halfback Augustine Pulu, who played for the All Black Sevens at the Rio Olympics, will captain the visitors and his clash with the Magpies' one-test All Black Brad Weber is likely to justify the price of admission on its own.
Lock-loosie Jimmy Tupou will start at blindside flanker for the Steelers. Fellow flanker Jordan Taufua is also known for his hard running and clever offloads.
Provided the Magpies can improve their defensive work and maintain the intensity they displayed for the first 30 minutes of Saturday's match against Taranaki, they will have a realistic chance of beating the Steelers.
Should they drop their third consecutive match of the season, the chances of achieving their season goal, a semifinal berth, will be extremely slim.
The Magpies are too good a team, on paper, not to reach the top four. The time to prove it on the field is overdue.
Hawke's Bay: Ryan Tongia, Robbie Fruean, Jonah Lowe, Billy Ropiha, Mason Emerson, Ihaia West, Brad Weber, Fa'alemiga Selesele, Ben Hamelink, Trent Boswell-Wakefield, Mark Abbott (v-c), Geoff Cridge, Ben May, Ash Dixon (c), Ricky Riccitelli.
Substitutes, forwards: Jorian Tangaere, Jason Long, Tolu Fahamokioa, Ross Filipo, Hugh Renton.
Backs: Ellery Wilson, Tiaan Falcon, Matt Garland.
Counties-Manukau: Luteru Laulala, Sione Molia, Sam Vaka, Cardiff Vaega, Sherwin Stowers, Piers Francis, Augustine Pulu (c), Sootala Fa'aso'o, Jordan Taufua, Jimmy Tupou, Matiaha Martin, Viliame Rarasea, Kalolo Tuiloma, Gafatasi Su'a, Sean Bagshaw.
Substitutes, forwards: Suliasi Taufalele, Sean Paranihi, Sione Faletau, Savelio Ropati, Viliami Taulani.
Backs: Richard Judd, Joe Reynolds, Sione Fifita.