While the Hawke's Bay Magpies had a win over Taranaki in Inglewood last weekend, they won't be taking anything for granted when it comes to picking up a similar result at home tomorrow.
The 34-33 win over the Bulls away from home cemented Hawke's Bay as heavy favourites ($1.23 to $3.85 odds at the TAB as of Thursday) to do the business at McLean Park in their Mitre 10 Cup Championship semifinal clash, which kicks off at 4.35pm.
But Magpies head coach Mark Ozich said his side can't take too much confidence from that result given they have a one-off game ahead of them.
"No one gives you anything in this competition, so we've gotta go out there and earn it, and do the right thing," he said.
Ozich has picked the 23 players he feels are best suited to beat Taranaki and said the number one key to selection was consistency of performance.
Captain Ash Dixon and loosehead prop Pouri Rakete-Stones both come back into the starting front row, with Jacob Devery, Jason Long and Namatahi Waa covering from the bench.
Marino Mikaele-Tu'u is also back in the number six jersey he has owned for most of the season as Geoff Cridge shifts back to lock in place of the benched Isaia Walker-Leawere.
Openside flanker Solomone Funaki starts again in the continued absence of Brendon O'Connor, who was ruled out for the second week running after his head injury assessment.
Centre Stacey Ili will also start in the only backline change, with Ollie Sapsford back on the bench after missing the last four games following an injury.
Ozich said Sapsford won that place over Hurricanes midfielder Danny Toala this week.
Caleb Makene gets the nod at first five over Lincoln McClutchie for the fourth week in a row and while the 24-year-old said fullback was his natural position, he has had to play plenty of 10 following the pre-season departure of Tiaan Falcon.
"I've been filling in at 10 and getting more and more confident as the season goes on, so it's been enjoyable," Makene said.
"I think we've got some good momentum going into the weekend and it's definitely a good time to be peaking."
Makene said he is really good mates with McClutchie, even though they are competing for the jersey.
"We help each other out, drive each other and push each other," he said.
"I think we both offer different things and it probably just comes down to the way it's worked out with combinations and what's been working the best for the team at the moment."
Ozich said he had full confidence to pick either player as his No 1 option at first five.
He said Makene was selected against Wellington a couple of weeks ago for his defensive attributes to combat their particular threats.
"And he's gone pretty well in the past couple of weeks, so it's been really a reward for Caleb for doing a good job," Ozich said.
"When there's a bit of fatigue in the game and it gets a bit more unstructured, Linc's got a really good skillset and a really good running game."
With good weather predicted, a family-friendly afternoon kickoff and the Hawke's Bay Rugby Football Union offering free entry to all attending tomorrow, Ozich said he was hopeful of a big home crowd:
"It's a really good initiative from the province and I'm sure there will be a whole lot of people there and the boys will love it. The home crowd getting in behind them will be great."
McLean Park has become a bit of a fortress for the Hawke's Bay as they go for their 7th consecutive home win in the semifinal.
The Magpies haven't been beaten at McLean Park since October 12 last year when they went down 47-28 to eventual national champions Tasman – Hawke's Bay's only loss in 16 games at McLean Park since September 2018.
Hawke's Bay lineup to play Taranaki in tomorrow's Mitre 10 Cup Championship semifinal:
1. Pouri Rakete-Stones, 2. Ash Dixon (captain), 3. Joe Apikotoa, 4. Geoff Cridge, 5. Tom Parsons, 6. Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, 7. Solomone Funaki, 8. Devan Flanders, 9. Folau Fakatava, 10. Caleb Makene, 11. Jonah Lowe, 12. Neria Fomai, 13. Stacey Ili, 14. Lolagi Visinia, 15. Kurt Baker.
Bench: 16. Jacob Devery, 17. Jason Long, 18. Namatahi Waa, 19. Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20. Gareth Evans, 21. Connor McLeod, 22. Lincoln McClutchie, 23. Ollie Sapsford.