The latest coach to guide Northland's bid for provincial rugby supremacy has one thing on his mind as the Taniwha build towards their 2015 ITM Cup season.

Richie Harris, 47, is preparing the current crop of Taniwha players for a Ranfurly Shield challenge, as well as a shot at redemption in their opening ITM Cup match against Hawke's Bay in August.

With provincial rugby's holy grail up for grabs, Harris says the Taniwha will be "looking to hit the ground running".

"When you talk of the Ranfurly Shield, it adds a real focal point.


"We're really keen to present a good challenge.

"On any given day someone can get up, so you have to take extra care when it's up for grabs."

Harris couldn't ask for a bigger test in his first crack at ITM Cup level coaching.

The former Gallaher Shield-winning Grammar Carlton head coach and Blues secondary schools coach is aware that it has been a long wait between drinks for Northland rugby fans.

The current tally stands at 37 long years since the ol' log of wood last resided in the province.

But, with an increase in Super Rugby players donning the Cambridge blue this season, Harris' coaching debut will be helped by their experience at the next level up from ITM Cup.

Additionally, Northland's 23-21 win over shield holders Hawkes Bay's Magpies last September showed the Taniwha can "get up" when they need to, Harris says.

The Taniwhas 2015 round one encounter against Hawke's Bay will provide some hope for redemption in light of last year's dramatic 26-21 semifinal loss to the Magpies in the ITM Cup Championship.


"They (Northland) weren't in it at all then they got right up there towards the end," Harris says.

This year's ITM Cup draw presents a mixed bag of fixtures for the Taniwha but Harris is confident of a good outing in his first season of professional coaching.

"[It's a] great opportunity to present ourselves," he says.

"The tail end is a bit tough. It will be a nice start [but] tough end."

Northland open their ITM Cup campaign against Hawke's Bay on August 16 in Napier.