The fate of Auckland's yoyo Mitre 10 Cup season rests on the outcome of tomorrow's crossover fixture in Rotorua.
Already divested of two pieces of silverware in the last fortnight, Auckland should be desperate to avoid losing the John Drake Boot against the Steamers. Drop this one, and their season, so full of promise when one glanced at the quality of their squad, especially in the pack, will fast unravel.
The good news is the long-awaited return of Melani Nanai and Lolagi Visinia to the back three, but that is offset by Blake Gibson's absence, for several weeks, with a shoulder injury, and Joe Edwards missing as he tries to shrug off concussion symptoms. Hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate is also out with a neck problem.
"We've gone from having not a lot of backs to getting them back, and now getting cleaned out in the forwards," laments coach Nick White.
Manukau Rovers and Auckland B loose forward Josh Kaifa comes into the No 7 jersey for his first start. Wing Pryor Collier takes a rest after some big minutes.
White says the squad has trained well this week, but then they trained well before the defeat to Counties Manukau last Sunday too.
"We had to focus on why we're not starting well and it's not a mental thing. It's just holding onto the ball. Every time we get it, we turn it over. If we can do that, we give ourselves a chance," he says.
"In fairness, you can't fault the boys for not playing 80 minutes. We just leave it a bit late!"
Both Auckland and Bay of Plenty sit fourth on their respective tables, though the Steamers are coming off a midweek defeat to Southland in Invercargill.
"Bay of Plenty have come off a short turnaround, but quite often teams play well in that last game of a streak. They've got every motivation. The games they have lost have not been by much. They are not a bad team and are a team full of hard workers. They'll have a bit of sting in them."
The Steamers, who have made several changes, also have a few former Auckland boys who may have scores to settle, men such as Liam Polwart, Joe Tupe, Joe Royal and Teddy Stanaway. White was hoping Auckland did not get rattled by any niggle, as they did against Counties Manukau, who brought physicality and attitude.
*Live commentary of this match is on Radio Sport and iHeart Radio from 4.35pm on Sunday.
Bay of Plenty: Isaac Te Aute, Regan Ware, Lalakai Foketi, Teddy Stanaway, Elijah Nicholas, Kelly Haimona, Ruki Tipuna, Joe Tupe, Hugh Blake, Shahn Eru, Culum Retallick, Keepa Mewett, Pingi Tala'apitaga, Liam Polwart, Aidan Ross; Reserves: James O'Reilly, Solomona Sakalia, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, Joe Royal, Jesse Parete, Te Aihe Toma, Dan Hollinshead, Monty Ioane
Auckland: Melani Nanai, Lolagi Visinia, Rieko Ioane, Vince Aso, Joe Ravouvou, Simon Hickey (c), Jono Hickey, Akira Ioane, Josh Kaifa, Taleni Seu, Liaki Moli, Michael Fatialofa, Marcel Renata, Kurt Eklund, Tom McHugh; Reserves: Blake Hill, James Lay, Isi Tu'ungafasi, Ben Nee Nee, Scott Scrafton, Leon Fukofuka, Liam Steel, Latiume Fosita