Super Makos are travelling well
The Makos' coaching staff must be licking their lips with anticipation.
Not only does Tasman have 15 contracted players scattered among the Kiwi franchises who have almost totally dominated the 2017 Super Rugby competition, the majority of those players are also performing superbly.
Tasman's largest representation is at the table-topping unbeaten Crusaders, where Makos' head coach Leon MacDonald assists Scott Robertson.
Utility back David Havili has taken advantage of Israel Dagg's enforced absence to turn in some glittering displays at fullback, flankers Jordan Taufua and Pete Samu continues to impress with their athleticism while Mitchell Hunt showed some superb skills in the early part of the season, when first choice Richie Mo'unga was sidelined.
Hooker Andrew Makalio, lock Quinten Strange and prop Tim Perry have enjoyed less opportunities among such an All Black-laden forward roster, but have stood out when called on.
Further south, the resurgent Highlanders are again getting good value out of their Makos men. The ever-reliable Alex Ainley produces the goods week in-week out, along with prop Sioiua Halanukonuka and loosie Liam Squire, although the latter will likely miss the Makos season with All Black duties. A concern for Tasman is the non-appearance of Makos' skipper Shane Christie so far this campaign. The vastly-experienced flanker has been on the injury list since the start of the season with no definite return date posted as yet.
The Chiefs are also flying high, having dropped just one game in 2017.
Winger James Lowe is back to his best, combining superbly with the likes of Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown to ignite the Chiefs' attack. Lowe will be keen to make his final season with the Makos memorable before he takes up a contract with Leinster. Up front, Kane Hames is also in fine fettle and, if the national selectors don't come calling, will ensure Tasman remain competitive at scrum time. Reserve halfback Finlay Christie is another to impress despite restricted game time.
Tasman's No 1 halfback Billy Guyton has also had to take a back seat, playing second string to All Black Augustine Pulu at the Blues, but has shown with limited minutes that he remains a class act.
Tasman's 16th contracted Super Rugby player is prop Ross Geldenhuys, who joined the Southern Kings this year. Although the Port Elizabeth-based franchise have struggled, Geldenhuys has shown enough form to be touted as a possible Springbok front row candidate.
Several Makos players are on the fringe of Super Rugby. Ethan Blackadder, Pari Pari Parkinson and Vernon Fredericks have spent time in the Crusaders camp, Alex Nankivell with the Chiefs in injury-replacement roles, their exposure to the fully-professional set-ups providing invaluable experience.
And it is not just in Super Rugby where Makos-contracted players have shone.
Midfielder Trael Joass has become an integral part of the New Zealand Sevens squad who will wrap up their 2017 campaign in London at the weekend, while Tima Faingaanuku and Will Jordan are members of the 2017 New Zealand under-20 side, managed by Makos' stalwart Martyn Vercoe.
On the negative side, prop Blair Prinsep is expected to miss the NPC campaign through injury, weakening the front row options. However there is talent aplenty at both Super Rugby and club level ready to step up.
The Makos' third warm-up game, against Wellington in Seddon on Thursday August 10, is expected to feature a close to full-strength squad before the Mitre 10 Cup campaign kicks off with a clash against champions Canterbury in Nelson on August 18.