It's a case of once more with feeling as New Zealand's Eric Murray and Hamish Bond and British arch rivals Andy Triggs-Hodge and Peter Reed yesterday moved a decisive step closer to another finals showdown.

The two coxless pairs comfortably won their heats yesterday to advance into Thursday's semifinals. But, much as they might talk of it being more than a two-boat race, all the indicators are that these four men will be eyeballing each other in lanes three and four in Saturday's final.

The New Zealanders are world champions and have 10 straight victories since last year over the men who were Beijing Olympics gold medallists in the coxless four in 2008. On paper it shouldn't be an event invested with as much importance as it is.

But there is a resolve from both camps. There is a mutual respect between the pairs, rather than outright mateship, as you'd expect given that both are going flat out to clean out the other whenever they clash on the water. Murray and Bond don't want to end their golden run on home water; Triggs-Hodge and Reed figure it's the ideal place to mark their card.

Do they suspect Murray and Bond are under more heat because of the home crowd factor?

"God knows, but they have a way of preparing for things and they do it very well," Triggs-Hodge, the blond half of the duo, said yesterday.

"Out here I'm sure they're looking forward to bringing their best race yet, but every world championship is different and we're here to win."

Triggs-Hodge reckoned he and Reed had "an easy run in for two years leading up to the Beijing Olympics - then we had our arses handed to us. Now the game is definitely raised and we're looking forward to the challenge."

Reed admitted that the 4s by which they were quicker than the New Zealanders yesterday was of no significance.

"Four seconds doesn't mean anything. It's only when you get side by side that you can really make something of it."

Murray maintained that despite all the head-to-head hoopla it was crucial not to write off anyone else in the race.

"You never count anybody out," he said.

That contest encapsulates an absorbing rivalry between Britain and New Zealand so far in the championships. The Brits have eight crews in finals and eight in semifinals; New Zealand have six through to finals and seven into semis.

Yesterday both countries won 10 races to set out their credentials for finals time.