New recruit Ereatara Enari will start at halfback for the Hawke's Bay Magpies tomorrow afternoon when Ngāti Porou East Coast challenge for the Ranfurly Shield.
The 24-year old Crusaders and former Canterbury representative was brought in after injury ruled Folau Fakatava out for the season.
Magpies head coach Mark Ozich is backing Enari to have a big positive impact on his team in 2021, albeit in a different way to the playmaking prodigy.
"[Fakatava]'s certainly out there on his own, the type of halfback that he is," he said.
"It'll be more of a speed of ball delivery versus a running game… which is fine because both of them work."
The other player set to make his Magpies debut is Hastings Rugby and Sports prop Dennis Tapusoa whose daughter, Meryanne, tragically died just last month.
Locking pair Geoff Cridge and Tom Parsons will each play their 50th match for Hawke's Bay, with openside flanker Josh Kaifa playing his blazer game as well.
Ozich said their final pre-season Shield game will be very important for building chemistry as the NPC season nears.
With almost all of their Super Rugby and international representatives having rejoined the squad, he said getting the late arrivals up to speed with the work done in their absence has been key.
"Going backwards a little bit to go forwards is where we're at."
Ngāti Porou East Coast Rugby Union chief executive Cushla Tangaere-Manuel said she was really grateful to Hawke's Bay for accepting their challenge, and the game would be a real highlight of their centenary year.
"I'm counting on the Graeme Lowe Stand to be blocked out in sky blue on Saturday," she said.
Ngāti Porou supporters on the East Coast and as far south as Wellington have booked out buses made available by the iwi and rūnanga for just $20, with a match ticket and marae accommodation included.
Head coach Hosea Gear said while the gravity of the occasion is yet to fully take hold among his team, they were all pretty excited.
"I'm a little bit mindful of keeping the boys' emotions in check, because obviously it's a huge milestone for a lot of them," the former All Blacks winger said.
"We're still looking at putting some foundations in place in terms of our game [looking ahead to the Heartland Championship]."
This will be Ngāti Porou's second game of 2021 following a Queen's Birthday Weekend win over Poverty Bay in which Nehe Milner-Skudder made a one-off appearance in the sky blue.
Tangaere-Manuel said while big showpiece games like tomorrow's match are important for her union, equally important are the ongoing connections and development opportunities they can share with Hawke's Bay and others:
"That's sort of one of my personal desires; to improve the links between Heartland and NPC unions because that is the natural flow, the pathway for our players."
Kickoff at McLean Park is at 3pm tomorrow.
Hawke's Bay Magpies
1. Namatahi Waa, 2. Kianu Kereru-Symes (co-captain), 3. Joel Hintz, 4. Geoff Cridge, 5. Tom Parsons (co-captain), 6. Josh Gimblett, 7. Josh Kaifa, 8. Gareth Evans, 9. Ereatara Enari, 10. Lincoln McClutchie, 11. Anzelo Tuitavuki, 12. Kienan Higgins, 13. Stacey Ili, 14. Dennon Robinson-Bartlett, 15. Danny Toala
Reserves: 16. Jacob Devery, 17. Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18. Dennis Tapusoa, 19. Elijah Martin, 20. Will Tremain, 21. Connor McLeod, 22. Jonah Lowe, 23. Devan Flanders
Ngāti Porou East Coast
1. Perrin Manuel, 2. Jorian Tangaere, 3. Raniera Whakataka, 4. Richard Green, 5. Riki Waitoa, 6. Hone Haerewa (captain), 7. Tanetoa Parata, 8. Will Bolingford, 9. Sam Parkes, 10. Terangi Fraser, 11. Teina Potae, 12. Tawhao Stewart, 13. Tutere Waenga, 14. Fabyan Kahaki, 15. Verdon Bartlett
Reserves: 16. Jody Tuhaka, 17. Maia Fox, 18. Pera Bishop, 19. Jack Richardson, 20. Tanira Tamanui Nepia/Trent Proffit, 21. Hamuera Moana, 22. Rapata Haerewa, 23. Tipene Meihana