Northland's new first five Jack Debreczeni has always envied the Mitre 10 Cup and is excited to test himself against tough opposition when the competition starts this week.
The former Rebels' playmaker, who signed a two-year contract with Northland, is one of a handful of players with Super Rugby experience and replaces Dan Hawkins, who also played for the Rebels, at No 10.
If he gets selected in the starting 15, Debreczeni's first taste of Mitre 10 Cup will be against North Harbour in Albany tomorrow and he is eager to test himself against the best.
Northland's second and third games are against Auckland and Taranaki at home.
"Three tough games — that's what you want. You want to test yourself against the best teams. I think all those teams are in the premiership or championship," he said.
Born in Auckland, he moved to Australia at age 1 and a standout performance for Sydney-based Trinity Grammar earned him selection in the Australian Schoolboys.
A tall and versatile first five, he made 53 appearances for the Rebels before leaving for Japan last year where he played for Honda Heat then signed for Northland.
"I was quite interested in coming over to Mitre 10, probably the back end of last year. It's always been a competition that I've watched over in Australia, it's a great brand of football.
"From what I've seen so far in the trial matches, the games are very intense and the speed of the game is fast as well so I think it's going to test me every week, coming up against good opposition that I've never played before, playing at new grounds."
Debreczeni played in the Taniwha's second pre-season match against Southland at Papatoetoe last week.
Apart from Hawkins, Murray Douglas has also played for the Rebels and is in this year's Northland squad and Debreczeni said it was good to see a familiar face.
A mutual friend of Debreczeni's put him in touch with Northland rugby head coach Derren Witcombe.
He's looking forward to fitting into the team and playing his role, not doing anything overly special.
Debreczeni is very much aware of the importance of a firing No 9 and No 10 in any team and is looking forward to playing alongside halfback Sam Nock.
"I've just seen footage of Sam when we've come up against the Blues. He's got a fantastic pass on him and his speed of ball is unreal. I played with him for the first time [in the pre-season] and it was very enjoyable.
"I think mine and his relationship is slowly growing on the field and that will continue to get better. Jono Kitto is a great halfback as well so we've got quite a depth at halfback this year.
"The group is a very tight group, the boys get along well, trainings are intense, you've got two 15s going at each other every training which makes training really fun. But you've got to take week-by-week results."
He says Northland's stellar run last year counts for nought.
"You can't sort of base last year's results and expect to go up one further. It's a clean slate and it all starts again on Thursday and we just build from there."