Bay of Plenty are set to become unwilling Thursday night guinea pigs after the repechage round of the Air New Zealand Cup was announced.
The Steamers will play Manawatu on Thursday, September 28in Palmerston North, despite objecting to the concept when it was first raised.
Thursday night rugby will debut a week earlier when Southland hosts Taranaki in Invercargill, after Manawatu, Southland and Taranaki broke ranks with other unions and indicated they'd be keen to give it a try.
Bay of Plenty sealed two home games in the repechage round, beginning with a match against Counties-Manukau at Blue Chip Stadium on Saturday, after finishing fourth in Pool A with a 20-16 win over Taranaki.
The Bay players are largely unhappy with the Thursday fixture, although coach Andre Bell was more resigned to the move.
"That's just a part of it _ we're dictated by television these days," Bell said. "It probably means we'll have a couple of weekend trainings that week. We'll have to shift things back a couple of days and at least we'll still have six days to prepare.
"But the big thing for us was Saturday's win _ we really wanted those two home games."
His Counties-Manukau counterpart Kevin Putt was taking an attitude of `I don't mind where, as long as we're there'.
"There's no one in our group that overawes us and I think we are quite capable of performing well against all of them," Putt said.
There will be added sting to Bay of Plenty's matches with Counties-Manukau and Hawke's Bay, after both promoted unions beat the Steamers during the pre-season campaign.
They'll need to win all three matches to guarantee a quarterfinal spot.
"We'll have a lot more to play for _ especially considering we played them both pre-season and lost," Bell said.
"That's more motivation for us as well."
NZRU operations manager Neil Sorensen said the draw was settled after extensive consultation with provincial unions, the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association and Sky Television.
"A number of factors had to be addressed in finalising the draw," he said. "Player welfare was key. We were keen to give as many teams as possible a minimum five-day turnaround between each weekend.
``Sky TV also had to be able to cover all the matches from a logistical point of view.'' Manawatu Rugby Union chief executive Hadyn Smith said his organisation was willing ``to test the level of support''. ``The only thing I would say is that we don't want to have to play them all the time.'' Southland Rugby Union counterpart Roger Clark said Thursday night was preferable to another option floated _ a midday game on Sundays. ``We have a problem on Sundays, especially during the lambing season, when a lot of people can't get away.'' Sorensen said a number of unions backed the Friday night doubleheader ahead of an early Sunday game. NPC wrap _ P12