Going back to the drawing board and welcoming back some big names could be the tonic to success as Waikato look to bounce back from a big defeat in rugby's Mitre 10 Cup.

The Mooloo men need a solid result in Pukekohe on Saturday night, for more reasons than the obvious. Defensive efforts haven't been lacking, but execution around making right decisions and being able to adjust to broken play hampered Waikato during their heavy 40-14 defeat to Bay of Plenty.

For their confidence, if anything, a better performance is crucial.

In response, it's been as much about going back to basics as it has been fixing the issue as coach Andrew Strawbridge remains patient with his young team.


"We've really had to go back to the drawing board a little bit. It's been about the building blocks of the game and what the fundamental movements are for attack and defense", Strawbridge said.

Counties-Manakau had the wood on North Harbour in Round 2 and is a team known for enterprising and innovation in how they score points.

For Strawbridge, he will also be all too aware that a place in the top four becomes that much more sustainable if multiple wins can be strung together, but the defense simply has to do better this week.

"Counties is a very competent team that offers a lot of variation around set pieces and they are quite inventive around how they strike."

The schedule ahead is not an easy one, either, with Premiership defenders Auckland being the next opponent (home) and then the unpredictable North Harbour (away).

There has been a bolster of sorts in the return of All Black loose forward Luke Jacobson. Released by the All Blacks to play Mitre 10 Cup rugby, Jacobson will be wanting to impress in what will be his one and only hit out prior to the World Cup squad announcement on Wednesday.

Fellow forward James Tucker is also in the running to return to action after a lengthy stint on the sidelines, but fullback Tyler Campbell has been lost for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Counties-Manakau sits just a place above Waikato in the Premiership standings thanks to two extra bonus points from their opening two games. Over the course of history, Waikato have had the wood on Counties-Manakau with 40 victories against the province, 22 defeats, and a single draw.


Kick-off is at 7:35pm on Saturday night at Navigation Homes stadium.

• Michael Pulman is a freelance journalist based in Hamilton and covers rugby, cricket and social issues.