Having already qualified for the Mitre 10 Cup championship playoffs, Northland's coaching panel has perhaps hedged their bets by resting key players for today's last round robin clash against Bay of Plenty.

Rugby pundits may have thought Darren Witcombe and co would make a few changes this weekend to ensure there is an injection of energy for the semis, wherever the Taniwha get to play that match.

Most of the changes are no doubt injury enforced and the key will be to get them fit and raring to go come knockout rugby.

The likes of Rene Ranger, Josh Goodhue, Tom Robinson, Matt Matich and Kara Pryor are absolutely vital if the Taniwha is to scrape past the semis and play in the crowning match.


Despite their absence, Northland will still field a pretty formidable line-up and most those in the starting 15 have played a lot of rugby for their clubs and region over the years.

There's one school of thought which says the injury to key players will give the coaches greater potential to re-configure tactically and structurally.

The risk, should the team lose or fail to bag maximum points, is a likely rematch with Waikato in Hamilton and nobody needs a remainder what happened the last time they played.

That's if the Mooloos beat Otago in the Ranfurly Shield challenge today and host a semifinals whereas Northland finish in fourth position.

The other school of thought is for Northland, currently on 22 points, to throw the kitchen sink at Bay of Plenty, languishing behind the Taniwha on 16 points, and come away with a bonus-point win in Tauranga.

Should they win and Otago lose without any bonus points, Northland will climb into third position and will likely play away to Hawke's Bay, on 28 points, next weekend.

There's a distinct possibility of the Magpies knocking the Mooloos off their perch if
Waikato fail to secure any point in the Ranfurly Shield challenge.

For the Taniwha, the focus will need to be to win the battle tomorrow as well as the war next weekend.

Jack Straker has replaced an injured Ross Wright at prop and together with Ropate Rinakama at tighhead and skipper Matt Moulds, the trio complete the front row.

Temo Mayanavanua and Sam McNamara will be the twin props while Aorangi Stokes and Kane Jacobson the blindside and openside flankers respectively.

Jaycob Matiu slots in at No 8 in place of an injured Matt Matich.

Veteran Sam Nock and Jack Debreczeni start as the halves' pair, Gregor Scott and Jordan Hyland the wingers, and Blake Hohaia and Tamati Tua the centres.

Matty Wright has been named in his preferred fullback position.

The reserves will be Campbell Matthews, Isileli Tu'ungafasi, Paddy Jo Atkins, Lucas Albornoz, Taniela Manu, Mac Sykes, Wiseguy Faiane, and Noah Cooper.

The match at Tauranga Domain kicks off at 2.35pm.

Northland team to play Bay of Plenty
1) Jack Straker
2) Matt Moulds
3) Ropate Rinakama
4) Sam McNamara5) Temo Mayanavanua
6) Aorangi Stokes
7) Kane Jacobson
8) Jaycob Matiu
9) Sam Nock
10) Jack Debreczeni
11) Gregory Scott
12) Blake Hohaia
13) Tamati Tua
14) Jordan Hyland
15) Matty Wright