Rotorua's Puarenga Park will host a celebration of Māori rugby this weekend as Te Waiariki take on Heartland Championship side Ngāti Porou East Coast.

Tomorrow's game is part of a double-header at the ground - it will be followed by a match between Central Bay of Plenty and Poverty Bay.

For Te Waiariki, it is the first preseason match in their preparation to compete for a third consecutive title at the Te Hiku o te Ika; Northern Region Māori Rugby Tournament held over three weekends in October.

For East Coast and Poverty Bay, it is a final hit-out before they start their Heartland Championship campaigns next weekend.

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In other Bay of Plenty representative games this weekend, Ngawha - formerly known as the Bay of Plenty Steamers Development squad - take on Waikato B men in Hamilton and the Bay of Plenty Volcanix play a pre-season match against Counties Manukau at Blake Park.

Te Waiariki co-coach Murray Sturt, who recently coached Portuguese team Lousã in Portugal's national first division championship, said the game would be a celebration of Māori rugby.

Te Waiariki co-coach Murray Sturt. Photo / File
Te Waiariki co-coach Murray Sturt. Photo / File

"We're trying to raise the profile again of Bay of Plenty Māori rugby and why not play against a quality opposition like Ngāti Porou East Coast. It's going to be a tough game, it's going to be a good spectacle," Sturt says.

"They have former All Black Zac Guilford playing for them and they have a lot to play for. They haven't won a game for a while but it's a good build up for them leading up to the Heartland competition."

He said the Te Waiariki squad had a good mixture of youth and experience and he expected them to play some exciting, free-flowing rugby. The key to success was having players who were proud to represent the team and their culture.

"We've got a few older guys returning and a bit of youth. We've got an exciting young backline and some good forwards, it's going to be exciting.

"We've got players from quite a few different clubs. When it comes to the end of the year it's up to the player, it's not up to us trying to force them into it and it comes down to availability."

Kia Ora Koutou! If you are not doing anything this weekend, come down to the club from 1pm. We are hosting Te Waiariki...

Posted by Whakarewarewa Rugby Community Sports Club on Thursday, 8 August 2019

Securing a third Te Hiku o te Ika is front of mind for Te Waiariki.

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"It's just coming down to hard work. We've just got the go hard or go home attitude and that's what we'll do tomorrow."

Sturt said it was fitting to hold the game at Puarenga Park, home of proud Māori rugby club Whakarewarewa.

"There's a bit of history there and that's why we've taken the game there. We could quite easily have gone to a stadium but we chose to go to a club - it's about Māori rugby for us at the end of the day."

Te Waiariki v Ngāti Porou East Coast kicks off at 1pm, followed by Central Bay of Plenty v Poverty Bay at 2.30pm.

Bay of Plenty representative rugby this weekend
Saturday:
Te Waiariki v Ngāti Porou East Coast, Puarenga Park, kickoff: 1pm.
Central Bay of Plenty v Poverty Bay, Puarenga Park, kickoff: 2.30pm.
Bay of Plenty Volcanix v Counties Manukau, Blake Park, kickoff: 2pm.
Waikato Men's B v Ngawha, FMG Stadium, Hamilton, kickoff: 5pm.