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Ordinarily, it would be a high compliment to say Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist have something in common with the All Blacks, but unfortunately, it's bad news as they head into their must-win home game on Saturday.
Just like last year up the Waitōtara Valley, the final round-robin game between Settler's Honey Ngamatapouri and Marist could prove decisive for the finding the last entrant to the Tasman Tanning Premier playoffs.
However, unlike 2021, Ngamatapouri have already booked their first ever Premier playoffs berth, with Marist needing the win whilst hoping the result at the Country Club, between undefeated visitors Byford's Readimix Taihape and Marist's derby rivals Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau, also goes the way they want.
But they will be without their head coach Travers Hopkins, who just like the All Blacks coaching staff, received a positive Covid-19 test on Wednesday.
"I thought it was the flu. Feeling it since Monday so I didn't go to [Tuesday] training - thought, 'I don't want to put it through the boys', and thank goodness I didn't."
Marist have still had good sessions to prepare for the Spriggens Park clash, led by experienced coaches in Andy Yarrall and Darryl Malcolm – the hard-nosed former forward Yarrall, father of current hooker Jack, knows the pack must deliver to stifle Ngamatapouri's near all-representative backline.
Coming back to his former Spriggens Park home, the visitors' fullback Josaia Bogileka, livewire winger Peceli Malanicagi and powerhouse Jim Seruwalu all found the tryline in Ngamatapouri's decisive 39-22 win over Kaierau to lock in third place.
"We're under no illusions about what we need to do [to stop them]," said Hopkins.
"I thought [last week] would have been a bit closer. But Ngamat doing what Ngamat does – go to sleep for five minutes and they can get 2-3 tries.
"There's a little bit of the onus on us [being fifth], we haven't picked up bonus points when we needed to.
"Kaierau, they'll have the same mindset, they'll know what they have to do, but we can only control what we control.
"[Ngamatapouri], I think it's great for them to make the semis, but as the opposition coach, that only goes so far for me.
"No disrespect to any other teams that played them, but they know where their strengths are [out wide].
"We'll be looking to get up front ball and give it to them."
Unfortunately, Covid has claimed another casualty in Marist's electric first-five Rangi Kui, right when he was ready to make his comeback from injury.
However, Hopkins has faith in Paiki Ponga, who has filled the role for the last couple of games.
"He's been a really good score for us this year. Another couple of years playing Prems and he'll be a very good player."
Crucially, the rest of the playmaking spine is back to normal, as halfback Rory Gudsell returns after missing their previous defeat to Kaierau.
"We're going to need that fizz – that energy," said Hopkins.
Look for the Marist front row in Yarrall, Keightley Watson and Marc Ouellet to take control of the set-piece and try to starve Ngamatapouri's backs of possession.
While in the unfamiliar position of being safe for third spot and with no chance of climbing higher, Ngamatapouri manager Gerald Pearce confirmed there will be no experimenting, resting, or adopting of a half-hearted approach to conserve energy.
With the current WRFU Premier grade reduced to five teams for a short campaign, any player who has missed a match here or there needs a quality hit out before the trip to Waverley.
"They're still pretty focused and definitely don't want to give anything away this weekend," said Pearce.
"They're pretty keen to keep them out of the finals.
"We've got a grudge – they beat us in the first round, which we didn't think was terribly good.
"We're not 'playing games', we want to go forward with a winning attitude."
Marist won 23-17 up the Waitōtara Valley on May 21, with Ngamatapouri getting a try on fulltime to make the scoreline a little closer than the run of play suggested.
There has been a bout of flu in the forward pack, while No. 8 Bryn Hudson added another hamstring injury to his long list against Kaierau.
However, co-coach and first-five Brook Tremayne has had no ongoing issue after a knock to his leg, as he looks to set Seruwalu, Kameli Kuruyabaki and the outside backs rampaging on Marist's flanks.
"The backs are all pretty good," said Pearce of their health.
Grinding loose forward and occasional prop Brett Joyes makes a welcome return, especially if Hudson is unable to make even a bench cameo.
Premier draw (2.35pm kickoffs)
Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist vs Settler's Honey Ngamatapouri, Spriggens Park.
Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau vs Byford's Readimix Taihape, Country Club.
Bye: Waverley Harvesting Border.