RUGBY By CRAIG TIRIANA THE deals have been done and the Bay of Plenty Steamers' home games for 2008 are finally decided. The financially troubled rugby union's board has agreed to split its five home matches between BayPark in Mount Maunganui and Rotorua International Stadium. Three matches will be played at the Mount and two in Rotorua. Baypark will also host a pre-season game against North Harbour. Union commercial manager Dirk Merwe confirmed the Bay would be working in partnership with Rotorua District Council as they did last season. It is hoped they can build on the success of the 2007 Wellington game, which created the best atmosphere of the season and was shifted from Baypark to Rotorua after a deal was struck with local parties to underwrite that game. The union has already said it wouldn't budget on crowds for this year and Merwe said some diverse thinking would be required to get people into seats, especially given three of the opponents have become regular visitors. "A lot of it is geared towards getting more entertainment and an evening out - I don't think rugby [alone] is enough to get people excited," he said. "It will be difficult. I don't think it's the way the split is, more the way the competition itself dishes out the home games ... we've had Auckland Southland and Otago for home games in the last three years in a row and we've played Canterbury away for three years in a row." The first home game of 2008 will see Counties Manukau appear at Rotorua International Stadium on Saturday, August 9 at 5.30pm. At present that date clashes with the scheduled Baywide club finals. However, that could provide an opportunity for the Bay union to make a big day for rugby if they allocate the finals to the same venue. Baypark at Mount Maunganui then hosts North Harbour and Otago in round three and six respectively before Auckland is forced into a rare Friday night visit to Rotorua for round seven. It is the pick of the home encounters and will be the first time Auckland has played in Rotorua since 2001. The Steamers' final round robin home match is a Thursday-night encounter with Southland at Baypark during round nine. Merwe said the last two home Thursday matches (2006 and 2007), which were both in Rotorua, were "not particularly" successful, with a poorly performing team and bad weather compounding things, especially last year. The Bay will play three pre-competition games: Manawatu (July 11, Palmerston North), Waikato (July 24, Hamilton) and North Harbour (July 18, Baypark). The Steamers' campaign kicks off on Thursday, July 31, away against Tasman in Blenheim. HOME GAMES August 9: v Counties Manukau, Rotorua International Stadium, 5.30pm August 16: v North Harbour, Baypark, 2.35pm September 5: v Otago, Baypark, 7.35pm September 12: v Auckland, Rotorua, 7.35pm September 25: v Southland, Baypark, 7.05pm