If you're tipping promising Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby hooker Kianu Kereru-Symes to follow a similar career path to his captain Ash Dixon you're not alone.

Ironically it's a possibly season-ending knee injury to Dixon which will see Kereru-Symes, 19, make his first class debut off the subs bench for the Magpies in today's fourth round Mitre 10 Cup Championship fixture against the Bay of Plenty Steamers at Napier's McLean Park.

The match doubles as a MacRae-Shelford Cup fixture and the Steamers hold the cup.

"It's a pretty exciting time. But there's a lot of pressure as we try and get back to the winning path after last weekend's loss and I'm stepping in for a person of Ash's calibre," Kereru-Symes said.


"But I'm ready for the challenge."

Former Hawke's Bay under-19, 16, 14 and 13 representative, Kereru-Symes, captained Hastings Boys' High School to National Top Four title honours last year and second place in 2016.

He will become the third member of last year's national title-winning side after loosie Devan Flanders and halfback Folau Fakatava to play for the Magpies.

Prop Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe, first five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie and outside back Danny Toala are in the Mitre 10 Cup squad but have still to make their cup debuts.

Kereru-Symes, who is just as comfortable at prop as he proved when playing in both positions for the Magpies in the pre-season win against Manawatu, said he has learned plenty off the likes of Maori All Blacks captain Dixon and Maori All Blacks prop Ben May.

"You learn a lot of tricks and they keep us on our toes. The Magpies environment is a good one for us young boys to be in."

The Tamatea club player is a half brother of prop Tom Symes, who played the last of his 43 first class games for the Magpies in 2007.

"Tom is pretty quiet and doesn't give me too many tips but I enjoyed watching him when I was a young fellah," Kereru-Symes said.


His father John Symes played halfback and his late uncle Stu Symes fullback for the successful Mahia club teams in the 1980s.

"I heard a lot about some of their big feats. They were pretty illustrious days."

Kereru-Symes did all of Years 1-8 schooling at Te Mahia School and he won't be short of support from whanau from the popular Hawke's Bay summer holiday destination today.

He missed New Zealand Secondary Schools duty through injury last year but if he continues to progress at the rate he has in recent seasons he could match Dixon's feats of Baby Blacks, Super Rugby and Maori All Black selection in the future but he isn't looking that far ahead.

"It's important I focus on one game at a time. This week it is the Steamers and I'll be happy with whatever minutes I can get."

"The Steamers have a good forward pack and with all this ugly weather I'm expecting them to try and punch up through the forwards initially," he added.

Kereru-Symes has overtaken his former Hastings Boys' High Scholl teammate Jacob Devery as the third-string hooker behind Dixon and Ben Power.

Devery has travelled to Taupo with the Hawke's Bay team for the national under-19 tournament which begins tomorrow.

"Kianu has shown during the pre-season games and training he can handle the step up," Magpies head coach Mark Ozich said.

"Ben [Power] won't go all the way so Kianu can expect some minutes. It's an opportunity to prove he can be the regular back up if Ash doesn't come back."

The other change to the starting pack sees Chiefs lock Michael Allardice return to replace Sam Ulufonua after recovering from headaches.

The only change to the starting backline sees Sasa Tofilau replace Pasqualle Dunn at second five-eighth.

In the wake of last weekend's loss to Counties-Manukau Steelers it is crucial the Magpies reduce their turnovers conceded and missed tackles tallies which were 17 and 27 respectively. Those sort of figures are unacceptable at this level.

"We spent a lot of time getting clarity and talking about accountability and mental application in these areas. Now it's time to put those words into action," Ozich added.

Hurricanes No 8 Gareth Evans will have the captain's arm band while Dixon is unavailable.

Along with Devery, fellow Magpies squad members, Flanders, McClutchie and Toala will play for the Hawke's Bay under-19s who open their tournament with a match against Bay of Plenty tomorrow.

Former Magpie Matthew Garland will start on the left wing for the Steamers.

He has plenty of talented teammates including fulback Chase Tiatia, the halfback-first five-eighth combination of Richard Judd and Mike Delany and flankers Mitch Karpik and Tanerau Latimer.

Today's curtain raiser will see the Hawke's Bay Saracens take on the Wellington Centurians from 2pm.

Teams for the 4.35pm match:
Hawke's Bay Magpies: JJ Talagi, Jonah Lowe, Stacey Ili, Sasa Tofilau, Mason Emerson, Tiaan Falcon, Brad Weber, Gareth Evans (captain), Josh Kaifa, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Tom Parsons, Michael Allardice, Ben May, Ben Power, Mark Braidwood. Substitutes: Forwards, Kianu Kereru-Symes, Joe Apikotoa, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Geoff Cridge, Will Tremain. Backs, Folau Fakatava, Pasqualle Dunn, Michael Buckley.
Bay of Plenty Steamers: Chase Tiatia, Fa'asui Fuatai, Liam Steel, Terrence Hepetema, Matthew Garland, Mike Delany, Richard Judd, Hoani Matenga, Mitch Karpik, Baden Wardlaw, Kane Le'aupepe, Tanerau Latimer, Ross Geldenhuys, Tom Crozier, Solomona Sakalia. Substitutes: Forwards, James Lay, Angus MacDonald, Jeff Thwaites, Aaron Carroll, Hugh Blake. Backs, Luke Campbell, Jason Robertson, Trael Joass.