When the Bay of Plenty Volcanix played Counties Manukau in a pre-season clash at Mount Maunganui it was a tough but close battle that only just went in favour of the visiting side.
Tomorrow, in their Farah Palmer Cup opener, the sides will face off on the Bay's home turf once again, and Bay of Plenty want to do one better than their 28-27 loss earlier this month.
Bay Volcanix coach Rodney Gibbs can't wait for his team to take on Counties Manukau and is expecting a tough battle.
"Well, we know from playing them pre-season, that they are going to be big, physical and reasonably direct. So, we are going to have to be on our toes and defend really well, and we are going to have to play smart when we have the ball," Gibbs said.
''If we play into their hands, it's going to be a tough day at the office. But if we can be smart enough when we've got the ball. Well then, we can challenge them."
He says the players have worked hard in the lead up to their Farah Palmer Cup campaign and he's looking forward to seeing it in action.
"I'm bloody excited and I can't wait. It has been a long journey, but I've got some great people on board, good management and good coaches. We are all learning just as much as the players. There are a lot of people excited to see what we've got."
Gibbs has chosen a team balanced with a mixture of youth and experience for the game.
"We've still got a few niggly little injuries in the group like young Layla Te Riini. But upfront we've gone with the girls who have performed really well during the pre-season."
The coach has gone with an experienced forward pack, which includes Black Ferns Luca Connor and Karli Faneva, who makes her debut for the Volcanix, and a less experienced backline.
"I'm confident I've got a good group there that's going to perform really well."
"The backs are nicely balanced, they have got a good skill set, they're not overly experienced in the backline, without Renee Wickliffe. But I'm confident they can get out there and have a go and play pretty freely. So, hopefully we can score some good tries along the way."
Volcanix captain Christie Yule says with her Volcanix co-captain, and Black Ferns captain Les Elder injured, she will look to the experienced players to help lead the younger players.
"It's probably evenly balanced this year, which is good, and the youth certainly provides a lot of passion and enthusiasm that keeps the more experienced players younger."
The 27-year-old says players like Jade Una Tuilaepa, Sapphire Tapsell, Kelsie Wills and Layla Te Riini will be names to keep a close eye on this season.
"There are some really good young girls coming through with such skill and game-reading ability, that I can't wait to get out on the field with them."
Wills, who also makes her Volcanix debut this weekend, cannot wait to get on the field this weekend.
"It's a few months training to get to that point so it will be cool to put it all together and have a game," Wills says.
Wills, who competed in beach volleyball at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and played her first club rugby season this year, is enjoying the transition to rugby and the environment she is in.
"I've been loving it, new challenges and stuff and definitely more that I kind of know what I'm doing now.
"I quite like competitive stuff so it's good that I'm in that environment."
And this weekend, she and her teammates want to get that win in their first move towards lifting the trophy at the end of the season.
"We played [Counties Manukau] in our first pre-season game and it was pretty close there, a good battle so hopefully we can use our speed and things and get one up on them.
We're trying to get a win overall so that'll be good to see how we go, we've got some good players in there and the Black Ferns girls are back now, so that's good."
Bay of Plenty Volcanix:
Angel Mulu, Luka Connor, Baye Jacob, Karli Faneva, Kelsie Wills, Christie Yule (C), Kendra Reynolds, Natalie Delamere, Jade Tuilaepa, Mystery McLean Kora, Olivia Richardson, Azalleyah Maaka, Danielle Paenga, Natalie Walford, Sapphire Tapsell, Lily Florence, Janina Khan, Amanda Aldridge, Tynealle Fitzgerald, Arorangi Tauranga, Tania-Rose Raharuhi, Anahera Mohi.
Farah Palmer Cup:
Bay of Plenty Volcanix v Counties Manukau
Saturday, August 31