Exactly how much the Hastings Boys High School 1st XV rugby team has been holding back this season will be known today.
"We have got plenty more up our sleeves but we still have to execute it," team captain and loosehead prop Kianu Kereru-Symes said before the side travelled to Palmerston North yesterday to prepare for today's National Top Four semifinal against Blues champions St Kentigern College.
Despite being unbeaten in their previous 19 games this season and scoring 981 points while conceding 95 there have been many occasions when the back-to-back Hurricanes champions and Super 8 titleholders appeared to be in third gear when they could have been in fourth or fifth. That's the right approach too.
When quizzed if their tendency to turn down kicks at goal when penalties have been awarded will be tinkered with slightly particularly if the game is tight Kereru-Symes, 18, replied: "I've said it all season ... we will continue to play our way."
Have they also factored in the possibility of windy and possibly wet conditions in Palmy and thought about using more short lineouts should those conditions greet them at kick off time?
"We will try and work around the conditions we play in. There will still be a few long lineout throws. We want to mix things up and show stuff people haven't seen from us yet."
A brother of former Magpies and New Zealand Secondary Schools prop Tom Symes, Kereru-Symes, said it is overwhelming to qualify for a second consecutive Top Four.
"Hopefully we can go one step better," he said referring to last year's 14-13 final loss to Mount Albert Grammar, a match which he lasted just 16 minutes in before being forced from the field with concussion.
"Because so many of us were there last year we can take a level of confidence with us this week. But it has to be minus the complacency which comes from some of the results we have had. We have to go there knowing we are going to be challenged. The fact we have been there before doesn't change much apart from having more clarity on what we need to do as opposed to what we have done before."
Kereru-Symes agreed head coach Tafai Ioasa had done a commendable job since stepping up from an assistant role when previous boss Mark Ozich left at the end of term two to take on his assistant's role with the Magpies. Kereru-Symes has also purposely left any decisions on his playing future until after this weekend.
"There are offers on the table but the next four days could have a big say on what I do so we will worry about the Top Four first."
He laughed when it was suggested he and his Hurricanes under-18 teammate and fellow prop Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe could be marketed as a package.
"We do work pretty well off each other but we are still building on our combination too. It will be interesting to see where we end up."
And the homework he has done on St Kentigern College?
"They are pretty set-piece orientated and kick a lot from set piece. We will try and take that out of them."
As expected coach Ioasa has only made two changes to his starting XV used in last weekend's 47-12 Hurricanes final win against St Pats Silverstream in Palmerston North. Danny Toala switches from second five-eighth to replace Gideon Kautai at fullback and Jordan Thompson-Dunn will start in the No 12 jersey.
Toala is a stronger defender than Kautai, he has a better kicking game and he is a lot louder and sterner with his marshalling of the defensive line. With Thompson-Dunn starting HBHS have three reliable goalkickers in himself, Toala and first five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie.
HBHS supporters will be hoping Kereru-Symes remembers this if today's match is close and handy penalty attempts at goal need to be taken. The other semifinal will see Chiefs championships Hamilton Boys' High School take on South Island champions Southland Boys' High School.
The HBHS team for the 1.10pm match at the Sport and Rugby Institute:
Danny Toala, Trent Hape, Dennon Robinson, Jordan Thompson-Dunn, Kini Naholo, Lincoln McClutchie, Folau Fakatava, Devan Flanders, Jeriah Mua, Liam Udy-Johns, Donovan Mataira, Tane Hohipa, Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe, Miracle Lolofie, Kianu Kereru-Symes (captain). Substitutes, forwards: Damarus Hokianga, Corban Kireka, Zac Southwick, Emil Crichton, Jacob Stephenson. Backs: Shamara Brooks, Gideon Kautai.