A call for strong leadership has been made by coach Richard Francis ahead of his Rotoiti team's push for a top-eight finish in the Baywide Premier competition.

Francis' side face struggling Whakatane Marist, in their sixth game of the season, away at Rugby Park on Saturday.

Rotoiti will go to the game on a high after a 17-all draw and strong display against a tough Tauranga Sports at home last Saturday while Whakatane are in search of their first win of the season and need to improve after a crushing 62-21 Easter Monday loss to Whakarewarewa.

Rotoiti' sit joint-eighth on the table with 12 points alongside Greerton Marist, but Francis said he was wary of his side's second-from-bottom opposition.


"We are taking this game seriously, every game is a big game for us and no team in this competition is to be taken lightly," he said.

Francis said strong leadership from captain and lock Baden Wardlaw plus vice-captain and kicker Whakataki Cunningham was essential alongside improved discipline across all areas.

"Our main strike players are Baden who inspires from the front and Whakataki who directs from the back," he said. "Both are great leaders for our team and their influence will be once again important this weekend.

"Our discipline has continued to be our main focus in training this week and on the pitch discipline must be there in all facets of the game."

Rotoiti on paper are certainly the favourites but Whakatane will be more than aware of their opposition's poor travelling record.

Whakatane Marist head coach Craig Edwards said his team needed to put in a full 80-minute performance after they collapsed in the second-half against Whaka in their previous fixture.

Whakarewarewa, pictured on their way to a hefty 62-21 against Whakatane Marist on Easter Monday. Photo/Ben Fraser
Whakarewarewa, pictured on their way to a hefty 62-21 against Whakatane Marist on Easter Monday. Photo/Ben Fraser

"We will be aiming to go the full 80 minutes, the boys have been going all right for the first 60 minutes but then fall away at the end," he said. "We are focusing on ourselves at the moment; trying to get our game plans going and getting our calls right first then hopefully things will flow on from there.

"A couple of our boys were affected by the floods and we haven't trained for two weeks but hopefully we can prepare with some decent trainings this week and pull things together."

Meanwhile Whaka, in seventh, have the chance to shoot up the table when they travel to take on fifth-placed Paroa, at Lawson Park.

The teams are level on 15 points with Te Puke Sports (fourth) and Rangataua (sixth). Whaka go into the game on the back of a much improved performance against Whakatane from previous weeks while Paroa aim to bounce back after a 21-13 loss to Te Puke on Tuesday.

Despite the quick turnaround, head coach Joe Savage said he was confident.

"Our preparations during the week has been pretty solid. We haven't had too much contact and we haven't needed to cover fitness," he said. "Our aim is to make the top two at the end of round one in the prem so this game is another one we need to tick off."

Bay of Plenty rugby union Premier and Premier Development fixtures:
(Premier Development kick-off 1pm. Premier kick-off 2:45pm)

Whakatane Marist v Rotoiti, Rugby Park
Paroa v Whakarewarewa, Lawson Park
Poroporo v Rangataua, Poroporo Park
Mount Maunganui Sports v Greerton Marist, Blake Park
Tauranga Sports v Te Puna, Tauranga Domain
Arataki v Te Puke Sports, Arataki Park

Baywide Division 1:
Kick-off 2.45pm

Ngongotaha v Waikite, Ngongotaha Domain
Marist St Michael's v Rangiuru, Marist Park
Kahukura v Katikati, Kuirau Park
Ruatoki v Judea, Tuhoe Park
Te Teko v Opotiki, Dunderdale Park
Waimana v Papamoa, Waimana Domain