Dannevirke Tigers coach Charlie Tuhua is hoping his team isn't overwhelmed in their first Western Alliance final in Tikorangi on Sunday.
Dannevirke are playing the unbeaten Bell Block Marist Dragons as the top two teams in the combined Manawatu-Taranaki competition.
For a lot of Tuhua's side, being in the finals wasn't the only new experience, with this only being the Tigers's third year in the Western Alliance competition and they have usually gone out after the first round, apart from one semifinal appearance.
"It comes down to who's not overawed," Tuhua said "For a lot of these guys every Western alliance game was high pressure. Getting to the final the pressure is added because there's no tomorrow, there's no ‘oh well, we'll come back'. We can't afford that."
This year, the Tigers lost to Bell Block 56-26 in Dannevirke and defaulted their second-round game in Taranaki two weeks ago because of injuries and player unavailability.
This weekend Bell Block are favourites, especially with the game at home in Taranaki, and they will be looking to make it back-to-back titles after they pipped the Feilding Falcons, 34-33 in last year's final.
Tuhua has "flogged" his side at training this week and they were due to travel to Taranaki today to prepare for tomorrow's game against the competition's benchmark side.
"We believe in ourselves that we can match them and beat them," Tuhua said.
Marist's dominance this year has come on the back of their big forwards, so the Dannevirke pack will have to front up.
The visitors may have an edge out wide though, with their backline a key part of their attack this year with centre Zac Wadley-Te Ture and fullback Aaron Eti likely to be a threat.
The Linton Cobras will be making the trip to play the Waitara Bears in the playoff for third and fourth, while the Foxton Rebels have defaulted their playoff match for fifth and sixth against the Hawera Hawks.
The Manawatu competition semifinals also start at Fitzherbert Park tomorrow, with the Kia Ora Warriors playing the Linton Cobras seconds at 1pm and the Ohakea Magpies playing Wanganui Boxon at 2.30pm.
- Manawatu Standard
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