Should Napier Boys' High School's first XV rugby side upset Christchurch Boys' High School in the National Top Four semifinals in Palmerston North today some motivation from an unlikely source will take a fair chunk of credit.
Boys' High co-coach Brendon Ratcliffe said his players had plenty of positive energy after visiting the Te Whare Tirohanga Maori Unit at the Hawke's Bay Regional Prison on Wednesday.
The visit was part of a relationship which began at the beginning of the year when inmates presented them with taonga to present to each of their opposing teams during their tour of South Africa.
In addition to these taonga, the unit's master carvers and inmates also presented the team with a hoe and tewhatewha.
Both taonga have travelled with the team throughout the season and before each game every player touches the hoe before they go out on to the field.
"The hoe signifies every member of our squad travelling together in the one direction. The tewhatewha was presented to our captain Tyrone Thompson and it will be passed on from captain to captain in the future," Ratcliffe explained.
During Wednesday's visit, each of the 23 players told the 50 inmates what this season's journey including the South African tour, Super 8 campaign and Hurricanes title-winning campaign along with the value of the taonga has meant to them.
"It was a special occasion. Our players spoke about the impact this season has had on their lives. At the end of the visit the inmates performed their prison haka which went on for four or five minutes ... it was really hearty," Ratcliffe said.
"Our boys took off their blazers and responded with the Tika Tonu haka. The inmates then joined in and we all combined as one. We showed our respect to them for what they have done for us."
"To us this season's journey has been so much more than about rugby and the experience has involved a lot of learning for everyone. These boys have the whole world ahead of them and can do anything.
"The wairua they have taken from that visit is pretty powerful."
Two of the NBHS players, prop Jayden Walker and fullback Max Anderson have fathers Rana Walker and Rick Anderson, who are prison officers at the unit and they were influential in arranging the relationship.
Former Magpies mentor Ratcliffe said his team has done plenty of video analysis on the Christchurch Boys' High side. He is impressed with their back three and the intelligent tactical nous provided by their halfback-first five-eighth combination of Louie Chapman and Cullen Moody.
"This school has produced plenty of talented 10s over the years including Dan Carter and Andrew Mehrtens. This season is no different."
Ratcliffe pointed out they play a similar game to the Crusaders Super team and Canterbury's Mitre 10 Cup side - extremely patient and they use space well.
"They are going to be a big challenge. We've got power as good as anyone in the country when we use it properly."
Another priority for his troops this week was establishing clarity on when to and not to offload at confrontation time.
Christchurch Boys' have played 18 games this season for 16 wins, a draw and a loss.
Napier have won 14 of their 22 games and have recorded seven losses and a draw.
Magpies co-captains, Gareth Evans and Brad Weber, who represented NBHS at Top Four level in 2009 spoke to the squad yesterday.
"Gareth and Brad are good examples of players who have got the most out of the game and they have plenty more to come," Ratcliffe said.
The other semifinal will see Hamilton Boys' High School take on St Peter's College of Auckland.
The NBHS team for the 2.55pm game is:
Max Anderson, Jack Sheridan, Leo Thompson, Keegan Christian-Goss, Jayden Stok, Henry Williams, Treyah Kingi-Taukamo, Luke Russell, Sam Henderson, Josh Gimblett, Frank Lochore, Tiaki Fabish, Patrick Teddy, Tyrone Thompson (captain), Jayden Walker. Substitutes: Forwards, Hayden Davis, Manaaki Aranui, Rob Slabbekorn, Austin Soanai. Backs, Angus Kilmister, Pereiha Hubbard, Caleb Turner.