You have to appreciate the symmetry.

A little under 12 months ago in the 2013 Tasman Tanning Premier semifinals, Waverley Harvesting Border went into their home game against Integrity Motors Pirates as slight favourites following two wins in their previous matches and considered the team most likely to upset the unbeaten McCarthy's Ruapehu in the final.

Yet Pirates, with a bye in the final club round, had a fortnight to think about their bus trip up the road and showed up firing at Dallison Park, winning 22-15.

Fast forward to 2014 and it is Pirates who have strongly challenged Ruapehu this year, and with 25-14 and 28-13 wins over Border in March and May, will start as the favourites tomorrow against a visiting team coming off the bye. Border also had plenty of time to get their heads straight for the trip south to Spriggens Park.


"It's a little scary," said Pirates coach Phillip Morris, who freely admits he guides a team that hates to lose more than they love to win.

"Preparation has been the big thing this week - old heads driving the others to excellence.

"If you lose a semifinal, the season is not classed as being a success.

"The last few weeks we've opened up sides but didn't execute - you don't get a second chance in semis."

The loss of injured lock Simon Hillis for the rest of the season has been a big negative, but Pirates were boosted when Lasa Ulukuta returned from his broken thumb for 20 minutes off the bench last week against Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist.

Ulukuta will now start as lock and captain, with the prospect he may move into prop as Morris will look to utilise his team's strength off the bench to supplement a strong midfield backs combination and play their physical style which starts at jersey No1 and carries through to No15.

"I've selected a team to start and have in mind a team that finishes," Morris said.

"We've got ball carriers right through our team. Denning [Tyrell] can put them in the holes, they'll be dangerous."


With three points likely to be worth nine under the circumstances, goalkicker Manulua Lafi has been practising hard with Tyrell slated as backup.

As a strong travelling contingent of supporters is expected to go with them, Border coach Ross Williams is determined to make the last weekend's rest work in their favour tomorrow.

Aside from injuries and departures earlier in the campaign, his settled lineup has now been together for the past month of games and it will take the aggression from forwards like Ray Stark, Sam Madams and Cole Baldwin to give their team parity with Pirates, coming to the attacking line.

"Semifinals are about big guys, stepping up. I expect our guys to front, the ones that have been on the MVP list all year," said Williams.

"I'm under no illusions of the challenge we have.

"They are still the same team we faced [in May], but we've had more time together, as have they.

"The bye was good to rest some bodies and the boys are fizzing.

"The excitment is there. There will be some key moments in the game and we just have to be clinical."

Up the road at Rochfort Park, all the cards will be out on the table when Ruapehu and Taihape meet for the second time in seven days.

With key first-five Tom Wells expected to return from injury while the likes of centre Cyrus Paringatai, flanker Marcus Tottman and hooker Rimu Wipaki should start after coach Kerry Whale shrewdly kept them on the bench in last weekend's narrow 16-14 loss, Taihape rate their chances of snapping a 22-game losing streak against their northern neighbours.

"We know they're beatable, very beatable," said manager Anthony Martin.

"I've been looking forward to it since we left up there last Saturday."

There has been some concern in the Taihape camp with the refereeing appointment of Gordon Ririnui, who famously sinbinned three of them in 12 minutes against Harvey Round Motors Ratana back in April, along with the fact Ruapehu will provide one of the touch judges.

But the biggest factor on whether history will be made is whether the defending champions can put last week's scratchy effort behind them and lift to a concerted effort, which coach Chris Winter has been hankering after.

There remains a big question mark over injured lock Nick Cranston, although Teira Cowan is back from overseas to join Sonny Woodmass and Andrew Evans as lineout jumpers, if hooker Karl Parker can shake off the problems with his throws from last Saturday.

"We've taken it slow and looked at what we did wrong," said Winter.

"I think it will come down to [whose] mentality is better.

"They had a game plan against us the last game, but it was more ourselves - we let ourselves down."

Kick-off at Spriggens Park will be at 2pm and 2.35pm up in Ohakune.

In the Consolation semifinals, both at 2pm, Ratana host Utiku Old Boys at the Paa, while Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau meet Speirs Food Marton at the Country Club.