Together they have been invincible in the men's pair on the international rowing scene for three years, but world champions Hamish Bond and Eric Murray will square off against each other when they race for their regions at the New Zealand rowing championship that start at Lake Karapiro today.
Bond (North End Rowing Club and Southern RPC) will be going for his fourth straight national title and his third with fellow New Zealand team rower Jade Uru. He is unbeaten in both the pair and coxless four since 2007 and is targetting three more to add to his 14 national titles but is still some way short of Waikato oarsman Chris White's domestic record of 38 titles won in the 1980s and 1990s.
For Waikato's Murray, wins have been something of a rarity at the national championships. This year he is paired with former Aon Maadi Cup winner and New Zealand men's eight rower Tyson Williams, and is keen to snatch the title from Bond, especially as training sessions in the temporary combination have gone well.
Murray is in stellar form at the moment, having smashed the world record for one hour on the benchmark Concept 2 rowing machine, and inflicted a rare defeat over Mahe Drysdale in the single scull at the recent North Island championships. Murray will compete in the single sculls this week but faces a very stern test.
The single sculling field is a who's who of New Zealand's recent small boat world champions, with Drysdale, Nathan Cohen, Joseph Sullivan and Peter Taylor all hungry for success. Drysdale, a five-time world champion, will be keen to regain his men's single sculls title he lost to Cohen last year.
Karsten Brodowski, one of Germany's top rowers, is another intriguing entry in the top sculling event and has plenty of experience on the Karapiro course having spent recent weeks training alongside the Kiwi team.
While the Olympic squad is all-but settled, there are still some seats up for grabs and the contenders will be keen to impress the selectors this week ahead of next month's national trials.