Bay of Plenty Rugby is so keen for you to see the Steamers start their Mitre 10 Cup campaign against Taranaki in Rotorua tonight they will let you into the International Stadium without paying.

There is a catch though. You have to be at the ground by 6pm for the 7.35pm kickoff.

But the Toi Ohomai Baywide Secondary Schools finals means there's a day's worth of rugby entertainment leading up to the start of the national provincial championship game, with teams from Tauranga and the Western Bay featuring in all but one of the six matches.

Tauranga Girls College 1st XV play Rotorua Girls High School at midday with the winner to represent Bay of Plenty in the national Top 4 Girls semi-finals in a fortnight. Tauranga are favourites after a previous win over Rotorua earlier this season.


Tauranga Boys College, whose 1st XV plays outside the Baywide competition, has Under 14 and Under 15 teams vying for provincial titles. The Under 14 White side is against Rotorua BHS on the No 2 field at midday, while the Under 15 Whites are against Taupo Nui a Tia at 1.30.

Katikati College, who had a rousing win at Moore Park against Opotiki in the semifinals a week ago yesterday, play Tauhara College of Taupo in the Division 2 final at 3.30pm.

The main feature of the secondary schools matches, the Division 1 final, is between Te Whare Kura o Mauao of Tauranga and Rotorua's John Paul College and starts at 5.15pm.

The two teams met in pool play back on June 23 where John Paul College won 8-5.

Bay of Plenty Rugby's Amanda Thompson reckons there's huge interest in the day.

"We had our two mascots Steamie and Heme at the Rotorua night markets on Thursday and they were really well received there.

"There's been a reasonable number of ticket pre-sales but we expect a decent-sized walk-up crowd too, especially as you don't have to pay until 6 o'clock."

The match against Taranaki will determine the first winner of the Chiefs Country Cup, to be played for between the four provinces in the Chiefs area – Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Counties-Manukau and Waikato.

Tonight's winner will then defend the trophy – designed by Dave Burke and featuring a maunga symbolising all the mountains in the Chiefs region – whenever they play one of the other three Chiefs region teams, home or away.

"That's created a real buzz and the boys are excited about playing for that," said Thompson.

There are three Chiefs players in each of the starting XVs – Liam Polwart, Mitch Karpik and Tyler Ardron for the Steamers and Angus Ta'avao, Lachlan Boshier and Sean Wainui for the Taranaki Bulls.

The rivalry will start from the time the two teams are led out by their skippers. The respective captains, Polwart and Ta'avao, are front row colleagues at the Super Rugby club.