When Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby lock Nick Palmer arrived in the Bay from Australia six weeks ago two consecutive Mitre 10 Cup starting XV appearances were the furthest things on his mind.
Basically Palmer, 25, a key member of the Norths team which won the Sydney club grand final last year linked up with the Magpies with the aim of getting as much experience as possible so he can push for a starting berth with the Waratahs next season. But with Hurricane Geoff Cridge and Chief Michael Allardice both on the injured list Palmer, or "Sticksy" as he is nicknamed, will not only make his second starting XV appearance in tomorrow's fifth round clash against Otago at Napier's McLean Park, he will also call the lineouts for the second consecutive game.
"When you get those opportunities to jump up the order you take them," Palmer said.
To be fair Palmer also earned tomorrow's opportunity. He was one of the few Magpies singled out by head coach Craig Philpott for quality chopping during Wednesday night's 40-27 loss to Wellington in the capital.
Palmer made 11 tackles and was also busy on the carry with an average gain of 1.4m from 12.
"It's important we chop our opponents down low early rather than wrestle with them up high. If we can do this we can put pressure on at the breakdown. We've worked on that big time this week."
After watching the Magpies miss 39 tackles against the Lions and 27 against Canterbury supporters will be hoping this issue has been fixed. Palmer pointed out the Magpies have watched footage of the Razorbacks last couple of games and identified a couple of areas where there could be some good pays.
"We just have to execute them."
Despite the Magpies' one win from five matches Palmer is adamant he made the right decision to play for the Bay.
"I'm loving the team and the province. Everyone is so friendly. The Mitre 10 Cup is really tough. I knew it would be a big challenge and it's really quick and physical. The attention to detail is the next level up from what I've experienced in the past.
"At trainings the drills are similar but in the professional environment when you are training fulltime you don't miss any part of the game. There's more in depth focus ... definitely different to the twice a week training sessions I was used to back home."
Upon his arrival in the Bay Palmer, a 20-handicapper at golf, said one of his goals was to score a round at Cape Kidnappers. He's prepared to wait until the end of the cup season for this.
"I'm just focused on my footy and I will use my days off for rest and recovery."
Five changes have been made to the Magpies starting XV used in Wednesday night's match. Josh Eden-Whaitiri replaces Cridge, world champion Baby Black Marino Mikaele-Tu'u returns from injury to replace the injured Tony Lamborn at No 8 and the starting frontrow of props Mark Braidwood and Jarvy Aoake and hooker Jacob Devery have been replaced by Jason Long and Pouri Rakete-Stones and hooker Jorian Tangaere.
Hastings Boys' High School product Sam Anderson-Heather will captain the Otago side from the hooking berth. Former Magpies halfback Jonathan Ruru will get game time off the Razorbacks subs bench.
In a late change to the visiting side Fletcher Smith replaces Vilimoni Koroi at fullback after Koroi withdrew with a suspected case of the mumps. Josh Timu, a son of Hawke's Bay-raised former All Black and Kiwis rugby league rep John Timu, replaces Smith on the pine.
■Gates Open at 3.30pm which will allow fans ample of time to come from the international netball fixture between the Silver Ferns and England in Taradale.
Hawke's Bay Rugby Union commercial manager Jay Campbell said there would be plenty of family entertainment with a performance by the Napier Operatic Theatre School, free face-painting for the youngsters and free 2017 Magpies posters with the opportunity to get them signed by all the non-playing Magpies from 3.30 to 4.10pm. The final of the Tremains Real Estate Rippa Rugby comp will be played and the 1st XV Pinetree Half Time Challenge will be staged. Among the giveaways will be the opportunity to win Richard Buckman's signed jersey.
Both teams for the 4.35pm match:
Hawke's Bay: Richard Buckman, Jonah Lowe, Hayden Hann, Cardiff Vaega, Sam McNicol, Tiaan Falcon, Brad Weber, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Hugh Renton, Lucas Goodin, Josh Eden-Whaitiri, Nick Palmer, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Jorian Tangaere, Jason Long. Substitutes, forwards: Jacob Devery, Mark Braidwood, Jarvy Aoake, Ben Parsons, Fa'alemiga Selesele. Backs: Ellery Wilson, Dan Snee, TJ Vaega.
Otago: Fletcher Smith, Leroy van Dam, Patelesio Tomkinson, Teihorangi Walden, Jona Nareki, Josh Ioane, Adam Knight, James Lentjes, Dillon Hunt, Josh Dickson, Josh Furno, Hisa Sasagi, Sam Anderson-Heather (captain), Craig Millar. Substitutes, forwards: Sekonaia Pole, Aki Seiuli, Donald Brighouse, Blair Tweed, Sione Teu. Backs: Jonathan Ruru, Josh Timu, Latu Vaeno.