The Bay of Plenty Steamers are "the team to beat" in the Mitre 10 Cup Championship division.

That's from Josh Syms, the assistant coach of the Steamers' opposition today, the Hawke's Bay Magpies.

Syms knows plenty about this region. He began his teaching career at Tauranga Boys' College and played club rugby here for Tauranga Sports.

He even remembers teaching a seventh former called Tanerau Latimer, these days the veteran blindside flanker for the Steamers.

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Now, after a successful coaching career at secondary school level, Syms has joined Mark Ozich in a new look mentoring combination for Hawke's Bay which has reaped immediate results.

Mark Ozich Magpies coach, Josh Syms assistant Magpies coach. Photo / File
Mark Ozich Magpies coach, Josh Syms assistant Magpies coach. Photo / File

"We've got more points in the competition already this year than we had for the whole of last year" he says, while still ruing the fact they lost to Counties–Manukau last Sunday.

"After all, we were up 25-22 with four minutes to play. We really let the win go."

But they did beat Southland 31-10 and Otago 31-25, both in away games.

Hawke's Bay are leading the Championship after collecting four bonus points in their three matches so far. The Steamers, with the same two win – one loss record, haven't secured any bonus points at all.

Syms thinks he knows what to expect from the visitors today.

"Clayton (McMillan) hasn't gone far from what they're good at. It's very much the traditional Bay of Plenty style. They like to use the ball in the backs."

Hawke's Bay won't be naming their team until today.

Syms says they still have a couple of injury concerns with high-profile players. Hooker Ash Dixon is bothered by a knee problem, while halfback Brad Webber is recovering from an ankle issue.

The Magpies assistant is relishing the prospect of the top two teams in the Championship division going head to head at this stage of the season.

"It's the Battle of the Bays with a bit on it."

Bay of Plenty hold the Macrae-Shelford Bay Cup, introduced last year for matches between the two bay unions. The cup is named in honour of two All Blacks, Ian Macrae and Frank Shelford, who both played for Hawke's Bay and Bay of Plenty during their distinguished careers.

The Steamers won the inaugural clash 46-17 in Rotorua last year.

What: Bay of Plenty v Hawke's Bay
Where: McLean Park, Napier
When: 4.35pm today