Two of the Bay of Plenty Volcanix' finest won't be with their provincial friends and teammates in Saturday's "Game of Three Halves" at Tauranga Domain.

Flanker Les Elder and flying winger Renee Wickliffe are part of the Black Ferns squad in camp at Mount Maunganui this week ahead of the Laurie O'Reilly Memorial Trophy match against Australia in Sydney on Saturday week.

The Black Ferns will play the Volcanix for 40 minutes, followed by 40 minutes against the Auckland Storm and then the Storm and Volcanix will finish the afternoon with 40 minutes head-to-head.

The Black Ferns have 28 players in town for the week and will name their line-ups today for Saturday's encounter but all players will see action. Whether Elder and Wickliffe play against their provincial colleagues is not yet known.


The day is also an important chance for the Volcanix to assess where they're at ahead of their Farah Palmer Cup (FPC) campaign starting against premiership champions Canterbury at Tauranga Domain on September 1.

Volcanix captain Christie Yule knows her team have a big challenge ahead this year after taking out the second-tier championship last season and winning promotion.

"That day [September 1] will be an awesome game. Obviously coming off our win last year and getting our cup and Canterbury coming off the Farah Palmer Cup means that will be a big match and we'll look to maybe make a disruption, like last year against Auckland."

The disruption Yule is referring to is the upset 10-10 draw with the strong Auckland Storm at Whakatane to start last year's competition.

After that, a confident Volcanix went on a three-match winning streak before a narrow 19-17 loss to their other premiership opposition Waikato, and finished the regular season with a 27-17 win over Otago.

But the 4-1-1 record was enough to make them automatic qualifiers for the championship final against Otago which turned out to be a thrilling 7-5 win at Blake Park.

"It is a bit of a step up for us this year" says Yule, "but last year we had some crossover games against some of the premiership teams and we did well against them, so we look forward to the next level."

Although Elder and Wickliffe won't be in the blue and yellow this weekend, Yule sees their presence as being important when the FPC season starts.


"Those two are going to be invaluable for us in terms of having that experience on the field, in particular Renee in that backline. We've got quite a few youthful girls and hopefully they can learn off them."

The women's game, both fifteens and sevens, is the fastest-growing part of rugby across the country. New Zealand Rugby is ensuring that growth is being supported. The introduction of Taranaki to the championship this year means only Northland and Southland do not have FPC teams.

At the season launch on Tuesday two players, Becky Woods of North Harbour and Sosoli Talawadua, came with their new babies.

For Yule, that sort of thing is second nature.

"It's time in this day and age that people are more exposed to it, and are more aware that we're not just mums. We have our sport, our hobby, and we like to be competitive as well and that's part and parcel of being a mother."

Of their six regular season matches, the Volcanix will play two as curtain-raisers for the Steamers in the Mitre 10 Cup.

As well as the Canterbury double header on September 1, the match in Rotorua on September 21 against Taranaki is the lead-in to the Steamers against Waikato.

Yule knows that while playing the early match before a Mitre 10 Cup game increases the profile of the FPC, she yearns – only half joking - when it might be the other way around.

"Having two out of six games before men's matches isn't too bad. But hopefully down the track the men will be curtain-raising us!"

What's On

What: Game of Three Halves
Who: Black Ferns v BOP Volcanix, Black Ferns v Auckland Storm, BOP Volcanix v Auckland Storm
When: Saturday, August 11 from midday