Bay of Plenty don't play Canterbury in Mitre 10 Cup rugby very often these days.

That's because the red and blacks are the perennial champions of the premiership division – they've won nine titles in the last 10 years – and the Steamers are battlers in the tier-two championship.

By the time the two provinces clash again at Tauranga Domain this Saturday afternoon, it will be nearly five years to the day since they last played.

That's hardly a date etched in Steamers history. On September 5, 2013 Canterbury, according to an account of the game at Rotorua International Stadium, "steamrollered" their way to a 48-13 win.


What might be much better remembered is a clash two years before that, in the days when Bay Park Stadium was used for top rugby.

A Bay of Plenty team, then in the premiership and featuring a couple of Canterbury products – Jamie Nutbrown and Phil Burleigh – as well as former Wallaby Steve Kefu, upset the champions 35-31.

But on the sides of the scrum for the Steamers that day were a couple of local legends.

These days one of them, Sam Cane, is an All Black star. The other is back in his home province ready to try and repeat the heroics of seven years ago.

Tanerau Latimer made his first Mitre 10 Cup appearance of this season, the 80th of his career, coming off the bench at the 54-minute mark in the tense win over Counties Manukau at Pukekohe last Thursday night.

He played a key role in the final quarter of the match as the Steamers held on to win 22-17.

He knows what a match against the defending champions means though.

"Massive challenge but one we're looking forward to."


He noted how Tasman beat Canterbury in the first round by putting them under real pressure at the breakdown.

"You've got to get the first bit right, which is the tackle, and then you get your offside line and you can go from there.

"If you look at Tasman's line speed through defence, that's what created those turnovers."

With two wins from two matches so far, Bay of Plenty are well on course to achieve the first goal of the season. That's to make the championship semifinals.

Latimer sees confidence and communication as one of the keys to their great start.

"If you'd have asked me three weeks ago, I'd have said it was a real quiet group. But now the new guys, having been in the environment, are asking questions if they're unsure. So it's keeping each other accountable"

Latimer has been battling a lingering injury in his lower legs since the pre-season schedule started.

"I still do, and it's recurring," he says. "But I've just got to stay on top of things and at the moment they're fine.

"So I've just got to keep up with the massages and the stretching, and we'll be fine."

Although the Steamers team for Saturday won't be named until tomorrow afternoon, does a 32-year-old loose forward with tender calf muscles have it in him to go a full 80 minutes?

"Yeah of course I have, of course I have."

WHAT: Bay of Plenty Steamers v Canterbury
WHERE: Tauranga Domain, Cameron Rd
WHEN: Saturday, September 1, 2.35pm
(preceded by Bay of Plenty Volcanix v Canterbury Women 11.35am)