When the Air New Zealand Rippa Rugby Championship gets under way in Wellington today, there will be no prouder team than Maungatapu School.
The Baywide champions went through Western Bay and then Bay of Plenty divisional finals to win the right to represent Bay of Plenty in Wellington.
Coach Fabian Herewini said his Year 5 and 6 mixed team would get a surprise when they were given their jerseys for the opening match. Instead of the usual school colours they were expecting to wear, they would be given Bay of Plenty rep jerseys.
Herewini said the initiative by Bay of Plenty Rugby would certainly help to motivate his team.
"We are playing in the Bay colours of blue and yellow, pretty much like the Bay Steamers. I think they are going to feel like little super stars. They are fired up for it for sure."
The rugby community in Tauranga have got behind Maungatapu's bid to win the title by playing practice games against them in the lead-up to this week's tournament.
"Everyone is quite excited. They haven't really had too much training time due to all our bad weather. We have maybe fitted in one or two trainings a week where we would have like to have three," Herewini said.
"We have been playing other schools around Tauranga who have been helping us out so that has been quite cool as well. It has been a good experience for the kids and they have been tough games as well.
"I think all our kids have been blown away by all the support. They have been going 'wow they want us to go hard, they want us to win'. We are there to represent all the schools."
Maungatapu School are in Pool C with Roscommon School (Counties Manukau), Brightwater School (Tasman), Oakura School (Taranaki) and Grey Main School (West Coast).
Herewini was aware of the ability of the other teams but was just focusing on his squad.
"They will be training just as hard as us but we are just going to stick to our game plan and if we have to adjust it as we play then we will do that.
"We are going down with our guns blazing and will just do what we have prepared to do pretty much. Just play our game and try not to fall into the trap of matching their game."
Maungatapu made it to the national finals in Wellington in 2011 and came third.
NZ Rugby has accommodated all 200 players and coaches from 20 schools in one large backpackers in Wellington to enjoy a real nationwide, community feel.
It is a good move indeed, Herewini said.
"It will be a good time to gel and connect with the other teams and they will make some new friends."
For the first time, this year's tournament will have selected finals day matches on Tuesday streamed live on the Small Blacks TV Facebook page.
Air New Zealand Rippa Rugby Championship
Today, Tuesday at Wakefield Park, Island Bay, Wellington
Full draw: www.smallblacks.com
Live stream: www.facebook.com/SmallBlacksTV