The last time the Taniwha made a semifinal, Jaycob Matiu - Northland's youngest team member - was still in nappies.

Tonight, he will look to make his mark from the bench against Hawke's Bay in the Championship semifinal - 17 years since Northland's last appearance in a top four play-off.

At 7.35pm, Matiu - now 19 - and his Taniwha teammates will look to repeat what they did to Hawke's Bay earlier this year at Toll Stadium: beat them.

While Matiu wasn't part of the team that beat Hawke's Bay 23-21 in the overtime thriller this season, there are only three changes to the starting line-up that did.


Consistency has again shone through Northland's selections with only one change to the starting line-up from last week.

Coming back into the line-up is regular-starting hooker Matt Moulds, which sees Willgriff John slip onto the bench with Ross Wright returning to his preferred position at prop.

Winston Stanley retains his place in the starting line-up after being a late replacement for Brooke Gilmore in last weekend's 38-10 loss to Auckland.

Taniwha coach Derren Witcombe said his team was confident ahead of tonight's clash, helped by having a week similar to all their other games.

"It's as per usual with our build-up", Witcombe said. "It's just the hype; we're not really talking about the semifinal, the guys are excited, but it's another game of rugby.

"The excitement levels are there, we don't need to amp them up at all - if anything we need to ramp them down."

Since the Auckland game, where Northland was outplayed, particularly at set-piece time, Witcombe had put his side through their paces to correct a few of the team's shortcomings.

"We talked about going out and playing some rugby. So, we've worked on a few things since the Auckland game - namely the set-piece.

"There's no reason why they shouldn't [be up for the game]. The boys are pretty relaxed and are a tight bunch of fellas, we haven't spoke of it, but they know what needs to be done."

While Matiu was a toddler the last time the Taniwha played in a semifinal, Witcombe - himself a Taniwha stalwart, and former All Black - was yet to make his debut for Northland.

Witcombe, now 35, struggled to recall exactly what he was doing, but joked he was likely to have been floating about Whangarei eating a few pies.