Come 5.05pm today, Northland's top men's rugby team will have to shoulder a whole new kind of pressure than just what's on the scoreboard.
That's because over 400 children along with about 250 parents and guardians from rugby clubs as far afield as Wellsford and Panguru are being bussed to Whangārei for today's Mitre 10 Cup game against Hawke's Bay at Semenoff Stadium.
The initiative, organised by Northland Rugby Union community programme "Rugby for Life", will see about 16 buses set off today to collect over 600 passengers from about 15 different rugby clubs across Northland.
The buses will head to the Marist Rugby Club just after midday where the travellers will be greeted with some food sponsored by Silver Fern Farms. They will also meet and interact with a handful of Northland rugby players before heading to the stadium prior to the 2.45pm curtainraiser between the north and south under-14 teams.
The children will then march around the field, led out by Tane the Taniwha, with prizes of $500 going to the groups which are best dressed and have the best mascot. After the game, the travellers will board the buses home with a dinner sponsored by McDonald's.
The idea to bus people from all over Northland to Whangārei was inspired by a similar setup used decades earlier when people would travel from far and wide to see the Taniwha play.
Project co-ordinator Sharon Gibson, who started with the Rugby for Life programme about six months ago, said her parents would recall the days the buses from out of town would converge on what was then Okara Park.
"[My parents] have a lot of really fond memories of all the buses coming into Okara Park for matches back in the day and they talk about it being a bit of a legacy and the park used to be totally packed," she said.
Rugby for Life was started by the Northland Rugby Union in 2018 and is a community rugby partnership program which aimed to use the power of rugby to help improve the lives of all Northlanders and their communities.
Gibson said she hoped the next generation of Northland rugby players would be inspired by experiencing the thrill and excitement of a home game at the stadium.
"The kaupapa around this is to wrap some support around the youth and give them aspirations to stay in the game longer, the idea of meeting their local heroes, touching down on the local stadium and to dream big.
"It's about providing opportunities for families who may not have otherwise afforded the opportunity and giving kids a really positive and unforgettable experience."
Northland kick off against Hawke's Bay at 5.05pm from Semenoff Stadium.