Te Waiariki Maori coach Murray Sturt wants to see his side express themselves during their opening game of the Te Hiku o Te Ika Maori Rugby tournament.

They go up against the Auckland Maori side in Auckland today and Sturt said with all the trainings, warm-up games and preparation completed, it was up to the players to put it all together on the field.

"Our last game was three weeks ago. On the Wednesday just gone we had a really good training with good numbers. That makes selecting the team a little bit harder but we're happy with the squad we've got.

"It makes them step up their training, the competitive side comes out of the boys. We do game scenarios where we look at what we want to do in different areas and how we're going to do it.


"[The mood in the squad] is really positive. I just want to see some expression, we've given them free licence to express themselves. We've got game plans and all that put in place but we want to see some exciting footy," Sturt said.

He said the ability to play exciting, free flowing rugby often came naturally to Maori players.

"The Maori boys have got extreme talent and it's exciting to watch when it comes off. Hopefully our boys can play an exciting game this weekend and score some fantastic tries - we won't be taking any shots at goal."

The team was boosted by the availability of several Bay of Plenty Steamers squad members.

"We've got a few who have come down for some match fitness and game time - Kelly Haimona, Matt Garland and Matty Axtens. We've also got former Bay of Plenty, Highlanders and Munster halfback Te Aihe Toma.

"Those guys bring a lot of experience, but we still leave the leadership up to our captain Whakataki [Cunningham]. We don't know if those boys will be there each week and they understand that. They do offer a lot of leadership and they make Whakataki's job a lot easier.

"It's good that we get these guys because it gives them a run and gives the Steamers coaching staff a look at them too. It's good that the Maori and Steamers are working together as one," he said.

Going in the other direction is Rotoiti and Te Waiariki lock Baden Wardlaw who has been called up to the Steamers squad for their match against Auckland at Eden Park.

"The boys in the camp are really happy for Baden and we wish him all the best. Hopefully he can carry on for the rest of the year with them, but if not we'll be happy to have him back. I think he has been the best lock in the Bay of Plenty club scene this year, so he deserves the opportunity."

Te Waiariki Maori team to play Auckland Maori
1. Arapo Whata
2. Strauss Ririnui
3. Anaru Potae
4. Tamati Rhind
5. Derone Campbell
6. Shilo Cullen
7. Peter Smith
8. Matthew Axes
9. Te Aihe Toma
10. Whakataki
11. William Warbrick
12. John Ririnui
13. Matthew Skipwith Garland
14. Curtis Deane
15. Kelly Haimona
16. Mike Bidois
17. Teena Black
18. TBC
19. Steven Coffin
20. Hemi Ruhi
21. Te Ra Whata
22. Devin Tetai
23. Tute Grant