There may be some pressure on players and scoreboard attendants alike, let alone fans, to get their maths right as the Heartland Championship kicks off around the country tomorrow.

Only conversions will remain at their usual total, at two points. Penalty and drop goals will be reduced from three to two, while tries go from five to six. This new pointscoring system has already been trialled in some Heartland provinces' club rugby and in pre-season, hence a scoreline of 16-2 in the Poverty Bay club final, which caused confusion with at least one media outlet.

Players have had 24 years getting their heads around five-point tries, and now might need the abacus if there is a scoreboard malfunction.

"We're hoping for a bit more running rugby rather than taking those shots at goal," says Thames Valley coach Hayden Roe.


"I'm not sure whether it'll be harder on us or the guy on the scoreboard. Hopefully he gets it right or we might have to give him a quick rundown!"

King Country coach Daniel Alofa says his union trialled the new pointscoring system in club rugby and the trends were clear.

"Teams would go for the lineout rather than that penalty shot, because they knew six points (and potentially eight) was valuable. Two points is still valuable, though," Alofa says.

A penalty try will see an automatic eight points awarded with no need for a conversion.

King Country's squad is much the same as that which went down 55-0 in last month's Ranfurly Shield challenge in Matamata, other than the loss of two players to work commitments, including prop Carl Carmichael. So the onus will go on the likes of captain and lock Aarin Dunster, fast approaching his century of games for the Rams, and halfback Zayn Tipping.

King Country are the defending Lochore Cup champions, but they have designs on making the top four to contend for the Meads Cup, especially with Sir Colin Meads himself battling cancer.

The Rams are in Masterton tomorrow, and look likely to face the nomadic former All Blacks wing Zac Guildford, who was just yesterday given the green light to play for Wairarapa-Bush. They lost 40-22 to Wanganui in last weekend's Bruce Steel Memorial Cup clash.

"They've got the majority of their team back, so it'll be a good gauge to see where we are at against the Meads Cup semifinalists from last season," says Alofa.

Thames Valley was ninth in the 2015 Heartland Championship, just missing the silverware rounds. They were beaten 83-13 in their June Shield challenge against Waikato, but showed promise in patches. However, they do not have the services of their player of origin loose forward Brett Ranga, who remains with Bay of Plenty.

"There's a few changes from that game and some new faces. It'll be a bit of a feelout in those first couple of rounds, that's for sure," Roe says.

First five Jonnie Te Ruki-Chambers will captain Thames Valley as a loan player, having helped Melville to its first Waikato premier club title in 35 years. Others such as second five Moss Doran and fullback Tyrone Keith will also be called upon to provide leadership.
Thames Valley beat East Coast 64-10 in Ruatoria to boost their spirits in pre-season.
"That was good to get us back on track with a 140-point turnaround from the Shield game," quips Roe.

Tomorrow they host Horowhenua Kapiti in Paeroa, the latter having contested the 2015 Lochore Cup semifinals. Former NZ Sevens players Warwick Lahmert is set to feature for the boys from Levin, who lost 45-10 to Manawatu's Development XV last weekend.

"We always set our sights high, so we're going for top four. You'd be stupid not to set your goals that high. It is achievable. You never know in this Heartland Championship. Anyone can beat anyone on the day," Roe says.

Other games see Meads Cup defending champions Wanganui, not long off a very creditable Ranfurly Shield challenge, host West Coast, while perennial contenders Mid Canterbury welcome North Otago. Poverty Bay and East Coast have a local derby in Gisborne, while South Canterbury host Buller. All kickoffs are at 2.30pm, barring the Paeroa fixture, which starts at 2pm, as do all Thames Valley home games.