Tauranga teacher Jason Spice and Mount Maunganui-raised former All Black Scott Robertson are the latest members of Team Rugby to be announced in the annual Hot Spring Spas Black Clash.
The teams will once again see Stephen Fleming's Team Cricket take on Sir Graham Henry's star-studded Team Rugby in a T20 cricket match.
The fourth annual event will once again see Stephen Fleming's Team Cricket take on Sir Graham Henry's Team Rugby in a T20 cricket match on January 22.
For the first time, the fixture is heading to Mount Maunganu's Bay Oval. Tickets are expected to sell out before Christmas.
This will be Spice's fourth time playing for Team Rugby, having co-captained with Israel Dagg the past two years.
Being 2-1 down to Team Cricket was something that needed to be addressed and he joked that the team was "a little bit nice to the cricketers the last time".
"We kind of need to let a bit more of a rugby side come out."
Each year, Spice said he waited for the email from organisers asking if he was available to play.
"It's got a lot more interest from players who want to play, it's a bit of a competition to get into the team," he said, laughing.
He said he had a "foot in each camp" having played a lot of cricket when he was younger, with a few of those in Team Cricket old mates of his.
"It makes for a good weekend."
After 13 years of playing professional rugby, Spice dived into a profession he had never considered for himself.
Ten years later, he's still a PE and health teacher at Tauranga Boys College, where he had his placement.
Spice, originally from Matamata, made both the Matamata College First XV and First XI cricket teams in 1990 while in fifth form (Year 11).
He made the Waikato rugby representative teams all through his schooling and featured in the Northern Districts age-group teams.
While he continued to play rugby after school, his energy initially went into cricket, breaking into the New Zealand Youth team and making his Northern Districts debut in 1993.
He returned to rugby when Dan Vettori came on the scene and made his Waikato debut in 1995 before being called into the Blues for his Super Rugby debut in 1998.
Spice was also called to the touring side of the All Blacks in 2001 because of an injury but wasn't needed from the bench.
Now, Spice plays a bit of cricket for the students in the men's grade, filling in when needed.
"My body's not quite up to playing every week," he laughed.
However, he had a few more months to get more nimble.
The left-arm spinner said playing the game in the Bay had both pros and cons.
On one hand, it was "great for the region" with keen cricket spectators and "one of the best cricket grounds in the country".
On the other hand, "if I do something dumb, I'm going to know about it," whether that was being bombarded with messages or when he returned to school.
"Some of these kids have good memories and I'm still getting reminded about the last game."
Spice said the school had a strong cricket background and the boys were already talking about heading down and many teachers would, too.
"Hopefully I have some sort of quality to my game because if I don't, that's something they're going to let me know.
New Zealand rugby union coach and former player Scott Robertson will be back for his third year as Team Rugby's team manager.
The former Crusaders, Canterbury, and All Blacks loose forward started his provincial rugby career with Bay of Plenty in 1995.
"As soon as they said it was in the Mount, it was a yes straight away."
"Especially at Blake Park where I've spent hundreds of hours when I was growing up."
The former Mount Maunganui student said Tauranga was his spiritual home despite living in Christchurch, and it was always special coming back.
He said the games were especially great for young fans, who could see their sporting heroes not only play but have a chance to meet them.
"It becomes real, whether you want to be the next Kane Williamson or the next Jordie Barret."
While he was a bit fuzzy on his role, he was planning on prizes for the best crowd dance moves and hyping up the team.
As for evening out the score, he said the games were always close and a spectacle.
Event director Carlena Limmer said if sales continued with the same momentum, the event would sell out before Christmas.
The corporate lounge has sold out, two side-line corporate tables are left, and the second release has nearly sold out.
Tauranga residents have bought nearly a third of the tickets, the largest chunk, but the combined total from other regions made up 68 per cent of ticket sales, most from Auckland and Whangārei.
The game helps raise money for the welfare funds of the New Zealand Rugby and Cricket Players Associations.
The Black Clash is sponsored by Hot Spring Spas, Heartland, Tauranga City Council, Ford, DB Breweries, Radio Hauraki, Trinity Wharf Tauranga, Paladin, Kookaburra, Trinity Hill, Soar Print, and Paramount Hire.
Teams announced so far:
Coach: Sir Graham Henry
Coach and player: Stephen Fleming
Shane Bond (making his debut for Cricket in 2022)