Steelform Wanganui coach Jason Caskey is ready to put up five straight years of sudden death Meads Cup rugby experience against the self-doubt that can come from nine years of drought in Saturday's final in Oamaru.
Facing a North Otago side whose union has not played in this match since 2013 and not won it since 2010, Caskey has brought all of the experience of grand final week to bear in the preparations since last Saturday's rugged 20-15 semifinal revenge win over Thames Valley.
Having played six straight games of sudden death to make the Meads group, after losing their opening three matches, Wanganui had a low-key training on Tuesday night, just doing video analysis of their opposition and some "organisational stuff".
Tonight's hit out is the big one, so the squad was not "over-cooking" before the long trip south.
"You've got to be proud of the way they have responded – backs against the wall, a dire situation and they played well," said Caskey regarding the last seven weeks.
He is hoping that will help against North Otago, who after winning their first four games, all narrowly, hit a mid-season slump by losing to both West Coast and then Wanganui themselves - 27-22 in Oamaru on September 28.
The southerners then played already-eliminated opponents Mid Canterbury and East Coast to finish the round-robin in second place, before holding off Wairarapa Bush's late comeback 27-25 in last Saturday's semifinal.
So while it is a long trip for the Butcher's Boys, they have over a dozen players who have experienced winning Meads Cup finals away from home, whereas for the home side, only centenarians Ralph Darling and Lemi Masoe know what it takes to lift that silverware.
Both Darling and Masoe were youngsters establishing themselves in the 2007 squad that won North Otago's first Meads Cup, and squad fixtures by the 2010 victory, both over Wanganui.
"They'll be trying to tell their boys what to expect, but until you experience it...," said Caskey.
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"Get in the final, how quick things go - you get into it and then it's halftime [already].
"Sometimes you have added pressure as well for them [at home], all the expectations.
"For the guys that haven't been in that situation, it can be hard as well."
Another potential motivating factor for Wanganui could be that only two of them will pull on the NZ Heartland XV jumper in November, compared to five of their opponents on Saturday.
Darling, prop Meli Kolinisau and lock Josh Clark were already 2019 incumbents from the Samoa game at Eden Park, and are being joined by fullback Patrick Pati, who set up two tries last week, and halfback Robbie Smith – the season's leading points scorer.
Alongside them are Wanganui's incumbents Campbell Hart and Penijamini Nabainivalu, while from the Samoa game, Craig Clare is injured and Lindsay Horrocks is understood to have work commitments in November.
But that's it for the locals, with Caskey wondering why a case could not be made for Kamipeli Latu, Angus Middleton, Jamie Hughes and, once again, Sam Madams.
"I thought a couple more might have got a look in. I thought they were quite keen on going too."
Latu will be up for a big match against Darling and Kolinisau, as will the returning Wiremu Cottrell, who plays for first time since that previous Oamaru game where he scored a try but picked up a shoulder injury.
After being on standby for the last couple of games, Cottrell replaces the devastated Gabriel Hakaraia, who had to go to hospital for surgery after a nasty infection in his knee, which is believed to have come from a hematoma and just would not respond to treatment on Tuesday.
"It started with a minor injury - very cruel for him, very hard," said Caskey.
Nonetheless, Caskey has "120 per cent" faith in Cottrell, who had been the original preferred starter until his shoulder injury.
"I might just tell him no left-foot grubber kicks.
"Wiremu has been the unlucky one.
"Gabriel took his chance and we couldn't really change it.
"Wiremu, he was very supportive of it, he was a good team man, as was Gabe – they all are in that front row."
A returning Ranato Tikoisolomone therefore has been bracketed on the bench with Raymond Salu as injury cover, as Cottrell had previously been.
Facing a strong North Otago forward pack, Caskey wants them to continue the strong scrum work that was shown in the first half last week against set piece specialists Thames Valley.
That platform could open things up out wide for the likes of red hot winger Vereniki Tikoisolomone, who with 12 tries this campaign is in sight of the Heartland record of 14.
Caskey also wants his young imports to embrace the occasion, as Manawatu winger Shai Wiperi has been a steady performer since the opening rounds, while young Aucklanders Amos Pogia and Ezra Meleisea came in after the disjointed start and therefore have never lost in Wanganui colours.
"We've got the attack to work off when you have good ball," said Caskey.
"They've been great, those guys, all three of those boys have fitted in brilliantly with the team and been a joy to have."
The kickoff, screened live on Sky TV, will be at 3pm.
On Sunday at 2.30pm is the Lochore Cup final between West Coast and South Canterbury in Greymouth.
The Wanganui team is
1. Kamipeli Latu; 2. Roman Tutauha; 3. Wiremu Cottrell; 4. Sam Madams; 5. Josh Lane; 6. Campbell Hart (c); 7. Angus Middleton; 8. Ezra Meleisea; 9. Lindsay Horrocks; 10. Dane Whale; 11. Shai Wiperi; 12. Penijamini Nabainivalu; 13. Amos Pogia; 14. Vereniki Tikoisolomone; 15. Nick Harding.
Reserves – Forwards: 16. Dylan Gallien; 17. Raymond Salu/Ranato Tikoisolomone; 18. Samu Kubunavanua; 19. Jamie Hughes. Backs: 20. Ethan Robinson; 21. Tyler Rogers-Holden; 22. Troy Brown.