There's an air of excitement from the beleaguered Northland fan base as their side looks to open the Mitre 10 Cup season with a victory on home soil.

Northland take on Bay of Plenty and there is a buzz about the side not seen for a few years.

The team are not getting ahead of themselves though. They know there's a lot of work to be done on the field.

Northland picked up a win and loss in twin warm-up fixtures against North Harbour.


Witcombe said they took a lot from those games and the pre-season as a whole.

"There were good learnings for us. It tested out our systems and our preparation.

"Obviously the first game we prepared well in Kerikeri and it wasn't as good in the second one against Harbour but that's what pre-seasons are for.

"It's for learning along the way and we've started well here."

Matt Moulds has been named captain once again fresh off a more pronounced role with the Blues during the Super Rugby season.

He is happy to be back in the role and said the pre-season went well.

"It's pretty exciting to lead Northland again. I'm really keen to lead the Taniwha back into a strong position," he said.

"We're pretty happy with how we went in pre-season, all things considered. We tried a few new combinations and different styles of play.

"We've figured out what style we want to play and we're ready to go."

Witcombe has taken the reins of the Taniwha after Richie Harris' departure following two seasons.

Moulds said he's already made a noticeable impact on the squad.

"He has a high standard for himself. He wants the boys to instil high values.

"The other thing he does is he creates edge. The boys are on edge a little bit and I think that's good with the amount of talent we have on our team.

"Everyone's on edge but they're fighting for positions on the field. The quality at training is high and the gym is pretty pumped up. It's a great feeling."

Witcombe is enjoying being back in Northland and taking on the leadership role.

"I'm loving it. It's a great privilege to be able to do what we do. I love my job and I've really loved coming back and making a few changes here already.

"We can see it off the field. If we get it right off the field hopefully it will transfer on to the field.

"We've got a great staff and a good group of players here that all get along so now it's about making it click on the field."

Northland have one change from the side named on Thursday.

Sam Nock has not fully recovered from a calf strain picked up in their last pre-season game against North Harbour, meaning Matty Markwick comes in to the starting line-up.

Meanwhile Bay of Plenty have named a tough outfit for the clash.

One-time All Black Mike Delaney will control the backline from first five in his return after a seven-year break while new signing and Highlanders lock Tom Franklin will make his debut for the province.

Chiefs loose forward Mitch Karpik will also be lining up for his first Steamers cap after missing all of last season with a knee injury.

The game kicks off at 2.35pm tomorrow at Toll Stadium.

Northland: Matt Wright, Jordan Hyland, Rene Ranger, Tamati Tua, Solomon Alaimalo, Dan Hawkins, Matty Markwick, Dan Pryor, Kara Pryor, Murray Douglas, Tim Bond, Josh Goodhue, Namatahi Waa, Matt Moulds (c), Howard Sililoto.
Reserves: Jordan Olsen, Ross Wright, Ropate Rinakama, Jack Ram, Matt Matich, Malcolm MacLeod, Peter Breen, Jone Macilai.

Bay of Plenty: Chase Tiatia, Monty Ioane, Lalakai Foketi, Terrence Hepetema, Joe Webber, Mike Delaney, Richard Judd, Tyler Ardron, Mitch Karpik, Hugh Blake, Keepa Mewett (c), Tom Franklin, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, James O'Reilly, Aidan Ross.
Reserves: Seb Siataga, Jordan Lay, Jeff Thwaites, Troy Callander, Henry Stowers, Luke Campbell, Elijah Nicholas, Isaac Te Aute.

Referee: Brendon Pickerill

Head to Head:
Played: 60 (1950-2016)
Northland wins: 35
Bay of Plenty wins: 24
Draws: 1
Last match: Bay of Plenty 50-25 - September 9, 2016 in Rotorua
Last Northland win: Northland 30-27 - September 25, 2014 in Mt Maunganui (ITM Cup)
Biggest Northland score: 49-23 - September 28, 2002 in Whangarei (NPC)
Biggest Bay of Plenty score: 51-3 - October 8, 2005 in Mt Maunganui (NPC)
Biggest differential: Bay of Plenty by 48 (51-3) - October 8, 2005 in Mt Maunganui (NPC)