Manawatu loose forwards Nick Crosswell and Callum Gibbins are far from spent forces heading into today's penultimate match against Hawke's Bay.
There's been much debate about fatigue kicking in this year but the two Manawatu trojans can't wait to pull on their boots and try to repeat last year's round-robin win over the Magpies.
Partly that's because, as Crosswell stressed, they have bashed into Bay teams for years down the grades, often coming off on the wrong side.
"There's also still a chance for us to make the semifinals," Crosswell said. "Beating them last year was huge, to get one over them."
This season Crosswell didn't spare his body playing for the Highlanders and the skipper is the only player to have graced every minute of all eight games for the Turbos.
Gibbins slogged through the club season leading Varsity and has played all but six minutes of every Turbos' game, and says he is good to go every time the coaches ask. In previous seasons he has job-shared with Doug Tietjens, but he wrecked a knee on Highlanders duty.
Junior Tomasi Cama played every minute until he left on New Zealand Sevens duty last week, wing Craig Clare has been there for all but 33 minutes, lock Michael FitzGerald (all but 51), Jason Emery (53) and Nehe Milner-Skudder (80).
Crosswell says the Super Rugby competition is now too long, but he would like to see the NPC stretched out. There are moves to cut the Tuesday and Wednesday night games next year. "As long as you don't get injuries, you're fine."
"I started on November 21 and have been going ever since. You feel like mentally it takes its toll."
Even then he said, once on the field and warmed up, it is all systems go again.
"For me personally I love it and you want to get up for most games."
He said at the Highlanders, coach Jamie Joseph works the players hard early on, then tapers off.
Crosswell will take four weeks off at the end. Maybe he will travel, he will sit a university exam, make some serious gains in the gym and get away from rugby.
Gibbins said he was tired during the Taranaki Ranfurly Shield challenge, is not sure why, but otherwise he has been fit. And he hasn't heard anyone else complaining about fatigue.
"I'm keen to play every minute," he said. "It has been quite a big season but I have found the more I play, the better I feel. Everyone likes more playing than training."
As an opensider he cops plenty of bumps and bruises, but finds after a day or two he has recovered.
Gibbins isn't putting any money on receiving a Super Rugby offer. He has finished his university degree, is keen to rest over the summer and while he comes off contract, is happy in Manawatu.
Today's Hawke's Bay team includes former Feilding High School prop Adrian Barone who played one game as a loan player from Wellington in 2009.
Manawatu: 15 Lewis Marshall, 14 Craig Clare, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Shaun Curry, 11 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 10 Nathan George, 9 Papa Wharewera; 8 James Oliver, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Nick Crosswell (captain), 5 Michael FitzGerald, 4 Fraser Stone, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Rob Foreman, 1 Grant Polson. Subs: 16 Bryn Templeman, 17 David Te Moana, 18 Reece Robinson, 19 Antonio Kiri Kiri, 20 Karl Bryson, 21 Hamish Northcote, 22 Willie Paia'aua.
Hawke's Bay: 15 Andrew Horrell, 14 Gillies Kaka, 13 Tino Nemani, 12 Marvin Karawana, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Isaac Paewai, 8 Karl Lowe, 7 Adam Bradey, 6 Michael Coman, 5 Ross Kennedy, 4 Tom Parsons, 3 Brendon Edmonds, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Adrian Barone. Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Peter Borlase, 18 Johan Schoonbee, 19 Trent Boswell-Wakefield, 20 Chris Eaton, 21 Star Timu, 22 Penikolo Latu. Referee: Garratt Williamson (Wellington). Kickoff: 2.35pm.
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