Fans keep reminding Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby team's halfback Brad Weber he was responsible for taking the Ranfurly Shield out of the province so he had better bring it back.

"People around here have long memories. I tell them I know what happened," Weber said yesterday between training sessions for tomorrow night's fifth round Mitre 10 Cup Championship clash against Waikato in Hamilton which doubles as a Shield challenge.

The one-test All Black and third-generation Magpie was referring to the 2015 season when he scored three tries for Waikato when they took the Log o' Wood off Hawke's Bay with a 36-30 win at Napier's McLean Park.

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After a couple of injury-plagued seasons for the Magpies and an outstanding Super season with the Chiefs Weber, 27, is having his best winter in Magpies colours and performing at the level which saw him selected for the All Blacks 2015 test against Samoa in Apia.

"Last year I was coming off a lengthy injury and was never going to play my best," Weber explained.

That injury was a fractured femur (thigh bone) collected while playing for the title-winning Chiefs in the final of the Brisbane Global Tens six months out from the start of the Magpies season.

"This year I've got fit and healthy and I'm playing with a fair bit of confidence."

It's no surprise that with Weber at his best his teammates are feeding off that confidence and enthusiasm and find themselves on top of the points table, seven points clear of their nearest rivals.

"We're playing some good footy but we haven't reached our potential. If we get it right on Thursday night we'll give it a decent crack and have a chance of bringing the Shield back."

After leaving the field with an ankle injury in the previous weekend's loss to Counties-Manukau Weber bounced back with a player-of-the-match performance in last weekend's win against the Bay of Plenty Steamers.

His two-try display reminded spectators of that October 9 night in 2015 when he scored a hattrick to secure another chapter in Waikato's Ranfurly Shield history.


"Yes the ankle was a bit of an issue against Counties-Manukau but I've had a miraculous recovery and it's feeling good now," former Otago rep Weber said.

Although there aren't too many of Weber's 2015 teammates left in this season's Waikato squad he knows what to expect from tomorrow night's hosts.

"They have a hard-working forward pack which plays pretty hard and they have a few guys in their backline who can provide a bit of razzle."

"We have to contain that and then fire a few shots of our own."

Weber boasts a record of one win and one loss in Shield challenges. In 2013 he played for Waikato in a 37-25 loss to Counties-Manukau.

If he can improve that record tomorrow night and keep playing well he could find himself on the All Blacks' end-of-year northern hemisphere tour. Although he isn't counting his chickens.

"It's pretty unlikely they will change the three they have now," Weber said, referring to Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.

"I haven't heard anything but hopefully I would be the next guy off the rank if there was an injury," he added.

The Magpies have not held the Ranfurly Shield since Weber and co took it back to Hamilton in 2015.

With captain and hooker Ash Dixon out for the season only three members of the Magpies team which last won the Shield in 2014 - with a 27-21 win against Counties-Manukau in Pukekohe - are expected to take the field for the visitors tomorrow night.

They are co-captain and No 8 Gareth Evans, providing he recovers from his eye injury, and locks Michael Allardice, providing he has shaken off his virus, and Tom Parsons.

While Weber's contribution to the challenge will attract plenty of attention it will be a significant occasion for Magpies blindside flanker Marino Mikaele-Tu'u. Should he take the field (and it will be a surprise if he doesn't start in the wake of his recent form) and play 26 minutes or more he will clock up 1000 minutes and earn his blazer.

Magpies head coach Mark Ozich will finalise his team tonight after final checks on injuries.

"This is an exciting time for the team. Hopefully the boys are up for it," Ozich said.
"We just have to go up there and attack."

Ozich has never been part of a winning Ranfurly Shield team. In 2013 he was an assistant coach on the Southland Stags staffing team which also included his current assistant Josh Syms and the Stags were beaten 25-7 by Counties-Manukau in a Pukekohe-hosted challenge.