If we judge a Mitre 10 Cup squad by the number of players playing Super Rugby, the Bay of Plenty Steamers could be in for a big season.
Last year, the Steamers won just four of 10 games and missed out on the Mitre 10 Cup Championship semifinals. They are in need of a boost going into the 2019 season and having well over a dozen players involved in Super Rugby franchises this year will help.
As expected, the majority are at the Chiefs; Sam Cane, Nathan Harris, Mitch Karpik, Tyler Ardron, Liam Polwart, Aidan Ross, Tevita Mafileo, Aaron Carroll — in as injury cover — and Kaleb Trask, who is contracted but yet to play.
The Hurricanes coaching staff have identified the Bay of Plenty as a valuable recruitment zone, picking up Richard Judd, Chase Tiatia, Kane Le'aupepe and Ross Geldenhuys while Dan Hollinshead has joined the Highlanders as a replacement for injured first five-eighth Bryn Gatland.
Steamers head coach Clayton McMillan says in recent weeks another couple of players, including Jeff Thwaites and Emoni Narawa, have jumped in with the Blues, proving a call up can happen at any time.
"You've just got to be ready," McMillan says.
He says Steamers players gaining Super Rugby experience benefits not only the individuals, but also the province and of course the team as they prepare for another Mitre 10 Cup season.
Karpik said having that many Steamers, who already had a tight bond, in the Chiefs was beneficial on and off the field.
"It's great having a good crew together, knowing we can go back to the Bay and join as one. Ideally, we'd love to be over the Bay, training and playing with the boys there but it's great being in a professional environment all year round.
"We're just training hard and learning lots."
He said there was always a bit of banter when going up against Steamers players in other Super Rugby teams and while they were competitive on the field they remained good mates off it.
"It's pretty funny. We played Chase Tiatia the other week and I gave him a cheeky message beforehand. It's always great, on the field we're tough and try to beat each other up but off the field we're pretty good mates.
"There's quite a few in various [Super Rugby] teams at the moment and even just training and preparing for big matches week in and week out prepares you really well for the Mitre 10 Cup season."
Ross said it was good for the Chiefs as a franchise to have as many players from its own provinces as possible.
"It's good because you get all those connections that you make in Mitre 10 Cup and bring them over here. Especially in the forwards, having played with the same guys previously you get good consistency being with them all year so I think it's a good advantage.
"At the end of the day everyone needs to make a dollar and Mitre 10 only goes for so many months of the year so if anyone can get a gig anywhere it's good for them to be playing footy all season round.
"Obviously the lads that are not playing Super Rugby at the moment are in the Bay and they've got a good thing going, the coaches back there will be working them pretty hard but that's only in the morning and obviously they have to go to work during the day and go back at night.
"The advantage of being in a Super Rugby outfit is being able to do it as your job during the day."
Tomorrow,the Chiefs host the Queensland Reds in what will likely be their last home game of the season. Despite a season hampered by long-term injuries, head coach Colin Cooper said he backed the boys being brought in to bounce back from the weekend's loss to the Blues.
"It's a must-win, particularly this one at home in front of our fans. The brutal fact is it's a short turnaround, we have to win and it's at home."
Cooper felt his side "didn't get the rub of the green" from the referees in that loss to the Blues and said all coaches wanted was consistency.
"I'll follow it up, I'll talk to people. If you turn away and say nothing then it'll just carry on won't it. I think it's all we want as coaches, consistency. But that's our game isn't it, it's not an easy game. If we haven't got referees we haven't got a game."
Karpik said it was hard to put this season's results down to one thing in particular but the team was eager to put on a good show for the home crowd tomorrow."There's not one thing you can put it down to, we're all trying hard and it's not through lack of effort or lack of intensity. It's just a few maybe fundamental errors that are letting us down but we still have three more weeks to prove ourselves and might be in with a little sniff.
"It probably will be our last home game so absolutely we love playing at home and it would be great to put a good [performance] in."