By CHRIS RATTUE
Waikato have ruled out their All Blacks for Sunday's Ranfurly Shield challenge against a Bay of Plenty side still coming to grips with the disruptions that shield holders face.
The Steamers not only celebrated for two nights after their historic win over Auckland at Eden Park.
In the finest traditions of the shield, they will also continue to take the log o' wood around the community until tomorrow. They have attended a civic reception as well, and will take part in a float parade in Tauranga on Saturday.
Waikato have prepared in peace, although they will not roll out their big guns for the challenge in Mt Maunganui.
"There will be no surprises. They are all exhausted," Waikato manager Glenn Ross replied last night when asked if Jono Gibbes, Marty Holah and Byron Kelleher might appear.
Test lock Keith Robinson, with a calf injury, is also a non-starter, and only frontrowers Scott Linklater and Deacon Manu are candidates to come off the extensive injury list.
Self-inflicted celebration wounds are a major concern for Bay of Plenty, and blockbusting hooker Aleki Lutui is in doubt with a knee ligament strain.
"Their livers have taken a pasting," said coach Vern Cotter.
"We are two days behind with our recovery after a very physical game.
"Normally and most importantly, after normal games we re-hydrate with Powerade rather than with champagne and beer.
"It's proven that if you take in alcohol it slows up your recovery by two or three days.
"It needed to be celebrated ... It was a great occasion and it would have been very hard to put the brakes on.
"It was a big day in the history of Bay of Plenty rugby. If we hadn't done it properly, we wouldn't have respected what Ranfurly Shield rugby is all about.
"We had a training run yesterday where most of the guys could barely get into a trot.
"But we realise it's time to get back to business. We're at the beginning of an NPC competition and not the end ... There could be heavy consequences if we don't get it sorted."
Cotter didn't join the two nights of celebrations.
The Bay coach might be regarded as a rugby throwback, as he is still a working farmer. On his 140ha farm near Te Puke, Bay of Plenty players are roped in to help - frontrowers handle the sheep tail-docking duties, and back Charles Baxter has been known to help with the shearing.
Cotter's dual career is another twist to the greatest shield story of the professional era. Rugby romantics will hope his side embarks on a shield run.
While proud of his side, Cotter said they had some luck at Eden Park, and he rates Waikato the stars of the opening NPC round.
"They have a powerful pack and speed and evasiveness out wide. Their structure looks more advanced than any other side," said Cotter, who also played the underdog hand before the shield challenge.
"It's been a very busy week for our team and it's not a perfect situation. We'll have to survive on the home ground factor and realise what the shield represents. Hopefully we'll put up a decent defence."
* North Harbour coach Allan Pollock will include All Blacks Craig Newby, Tony Woodcock, Nick Evans and Rico Gear in his 22 to play Canterbury.
"They're all pretty keen - they certainly passed the attitude test," said Pollock.
Canterbury will start Andrew Mehrtens and Aaron Mauger, but have not included other test players.