The Bay of Plenty Volcanix go into week three of the Farah Palmer Cup hoping to land a major result to boost their playoff chances.
The Volcanix have lost to Counties-Manukau and Wellington in the first two rounds of their season campaign but have earned three bonus points and are just two points outside the top four.
This weekend the Volcanix play Auckland Storm at Whakatāne's Rugby Park on Saturday - a team the Bay have not lost to in their past two meetings.
The Volcanix beat Auckland 34-29 last year and battled out a gritty 10-all draw in the rain in Whakatāne in 2017. Rain is forecast in the usually sunny Eastern Bay town tomorrow. But Volcanix coach Rodney Gibbs says previous results do not mean anything heading into this game and, after the 32-29 loss in Wellington last week, is happy with his team's improvement this season.
"We have had good preparation and had a really good run on Tuesday night. The girls were a bit disappointed after last weekend and that is good – everyone wants to be better. There was plenty of energy at training," Gibbs says.
"We are focused on making improvements this week and we are up against a very good side. It will be a great challenge but the girls are really keen to get in there and give it a go."
Natalie Delamere returns to the starting line-up and will play at No 8 against Auckland which means Tynealle Fitzgerald will be on the bench.
Gibbs says there are other potential changes on the bench and they will look at how players come through training.
"From our point of view it is around our own game plan, we are not in a position where we have to have a deep understanding of what they are going to do. We know they will be big up front, and have some exciting backs."
Volcanix captain Christie Yule says her side is ready for the challenge.
"It is always a game we look forward to. It has been really positive this week and the girls have taken it to the next level in that collision area.
"We are a smaller team so being up against a bigger side means nothing changes. We have to provide a solid set piece so we can use the ball.
"We are a team that is developing in that confidence and self-belief. We realise we are getting better and that we are a good team."
The Volcanix are in Hamilton to play rivals Waikato next week, before they take the bye. They will complete the regular season by hosting Manawatu at Tauranga and then a trip to Christchurch to face defending champs Canterbury.
Bay of Plenty Volcanix team to play Auckland Storm:
Angel Mulu, Luka Connor, Janina Khan, Karli Faneva, Kelsie Wills, Christie Yule, Kendra Reynolds, Natalie Delamere, Jade Tuilaepa, Mystery McLean Kora, Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly, Renee Wickliffe, Danielle Paenga, Natalie Walford, Sapphire Tapsell.
Reserves: Lily Florence, Baye Jacob, Amanda Aldridge, Tynealle Fitzgerald, Tania-Rose Raharuhi, Azalleyah Maaka/Tahlia Brody, Nadia Flavell.