Three provincial rugby teams will get a much-needed hit out against each other as part of preparation for the upcoming Mitre 10 Cup competition.
A Bay of Plenty Wasps team will play against Counties Manukau and Wellington at Katikati Rugby Club on Saturday and the two visiting sides will also play each other in the Bay of Plenty pre-season game of three halves fixture. The game of three halves format sees the teams each play 40 minutes against each other. Wellington will take on Bay of Plenty first before Counties Manukau, followed by a Bay of Plenty vs Counties Manukau clash.
Counties Manukau head coach Darryl Suasua confirmed All Black Sonny Bill WIlliams would be part of the squad, just a week after playing in the All Blacks 16-all draw with South Africa.
Steamers coach Clayton McMillan says they are not too concerned with the SBW factor and are focused on their own game.
McMillan will name his side for the Mitre 10 Cup season on August 6, five days before their campaign begins against Otago.
"Heading into Mitre 10 Cup week it is good to play two quality premiership sides like this. It is about getting miles under our belt and testing some combinations. They are big physical sides and they play a pretty abrasive game," McMillan says
"We are not too worried about the result. As long as we show energy and intent, we will be happy. We have flooded them with a lot of information in the next few weeks, so it can be a bit muddled at times."
Suasua says going into this weekend's match it is hard to know what to expect because teams will likely use it to test systems they have been working on in recent weeks, making sure they've got everything right for the Mitre 10 Cup Season.
He says the format has many benefits, providing coaching staff with a checkpoint of how they are tracking, allowing teams to test positions and combinations and forces teams to be more adaptable because you don't know what you're opposition will bring.
"It's a great idea to do it this way," Suasua says.
The Wellington squad left on Tuesday afternoon and will be in Pāpāmoa later this week to prepare for Saturday.
Wellington head coach Chris Gibbes named his squad for the season on Monday and sees the trip north as vital for their players.
"It's the first real chance we have had to get the entire squad away and build towards the start of the Mitre 10 Cup which is obviously fast approaching," Gibbes says.
"We had club finals day here on Saturday so the guys backing up on Sunday against Manawatu had very limited game time.
"This weekend is really important for us with the competition starting next week and I'm sure the other teams involved feel exactly the same," Gibbes says.
Gibbes named Matt Proctor and Du'Plessis Kirifi as co-captains for the season.
"There are also other key individuals in this team who will help lead the squad and assist the captains in their roles."
Hurricanes utility back Vince Aso has transferred from Auckland and is one of six new additions in the backs along with former Canterbury halfback Connor Collins.
The Bay of Plenty pre-season Game of Three Halves:
Where: Katikati Rugby Football Club. Entry is free.
When: Saturday, August 3. Gates open at 12.30pm.
1pm: Wellington vs Bay of Plenty
1.50pm: Wellington vs Counties Manukau
2.40pm: Bay of Plenty v Counties Manukau