It's been labelled an opposed training run but expect Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby coach Mark Ozich to accumulate plenty of info out of today's pre-season outing against Waikato in Taupo.
While the Magpies will have numerous first stringers available several will be missing. One of those unavailable is Highlanders loosie Marino Mikaele-Tu'u with a shin issue which may keep him on the sideline for another five weeks.
In his absence it will be an opportunity for New Zealand under-20 representative Devan Flanders to prove he is ready for more Mitre 10 Cup starting XV appearances than the two he had among his nine appearances last year.
There will also be plenty of interest in how Taradale Rugby and Sports loosie Iakopo Mapu goes against tougher opposition than the Manawatu Turbos pack he played against at Napier's McLean Park on July 3.
Mapu impressed in that fixture and will be eager for action after his club side missed out on last weekend's Maddison Trophy final.
While Mapu is unlikely to secure a full Magpies Mitre 10 Cup contract this season he will make sure he does enough for Ozich and his assistant Josh Syms to have his name near the top of the list of standby players.
Mapu finished the club season as the second top try scorer with 21. Napier Old Boys Marist utility back Saia Paese scored 23 and his clubmate, winger Michael Buckley, was third with 19.
In former Magpies captain Brendon O'Connor the likes of Mapu and Flanders have the ideal role model to learn from. O'Connor, 29, is back in the Bay after plying his trade with the Leicester Tigers in the English Premiership.
A former Blues and Crusaders Super player, O'Connor played 34 first class games for the Magpies and scored 16 tries between 2013 and '15. Whether or not he still has the same influence and authority now as he had back then will be gauged with interest.
This hit out will also be an early opportunity for Ozich and Syms to bank intelligence on the Waikato outfit they will meet in Hamilton on September 12.
Ozich pointed out Maori All Blacks captain and Highlanders hooker Ash Dixon and the Hurricanes trio of Gareth Evans, Ben May and Maori All Black lock Isaia Walker-Leawere will join the squad next week. Hurricanes outside back Jonah Lowe will miss today's outing with a shoulder injury.
In addition to Mikaele-Tu'u, Central lock Tom Parsons is still recovering from calf and knee injuries, Hastings Rugby and Sports captain and prop Jason Long has a groin injury and the Napier Old Boys Marist quartet of loosie Hannan Brighouse (knee), and utility backs Sam McNicol, Paese (both groin) and Stacey Ili (knee) is also unavailable. Work commitments have ruled Buckley out.
Ozich said today's outing will be treated as a training exercise.
"Waikato have been in camp and want to finish it with an opposed training run. For us it will be an opportunity to trial different systems and combinations. We've been training for a couple of weeks so are keen to see how things work."
The Magpies Mitre 10 Cup squad will be announced on August 5.
The squad for today is:
Albert Hemopo, Anzelo Tuitavuki, Brendon O'Connor, Caleb Makene, Danny Toala, Devan Flanders, Elijah Martin, Folau Fakatava, Geoff Cridge, Iakopo Mapu, Jacob Devery, Joel Hintz, Josh Kaifa, Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe, Kianu Kereru-Symes, Lincoln McClutchie, Mason Emerson, Namatahi Waa, Neria Fomai, Ollie Sapsford, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Ricky Hayes, Tim Farrell, Timo Vaiusu, Tyrone Dodd-Edwards, Zac Donaldson.