The Magic will be out to show last week was an aberration as they hunt the outright competition lead tonight.
After their worst performance of the trans-Tasman league season in their 54-44 loss to the Central Pulse in Porirua, there will be no shortage of motivation for the Waikato-Bay of Plenty side to get back on track.
A win against the Southern Steel in Invercargill would move the Magic clear of the Melbourne Vixens and Queensland Firebirds - with that trio all tied on 14 points (however they have played one, and two, extra games than the Magic respectively). It is a statement the Magic would love to make, heading into the business end of the season.
After tonight there are three rounds remaining and, as history has proven, home advantage come playoff time is a huge factor.
So while the Magic will almost certainly be in the top four come the conclusion of the regular season, they cannot afford to slacken off their intensity, because it would be a shame to waste the opportunity they have to potentially make history by hosting a grand final in New Zealand.
But that down-the-track-stuff will be far from their mind tonight, when they meet a Steel side which perhaps presents a more dangerous proposition than normal because they are out of playoff contention. The southerners have lost six of their 10 games but are a bigger threat than that indicates, having the best attacking record in the competition, with 60.3 goals per match, and the best shooting accuracy too at 89.2 per cent.
Towering 1.98m goal shoot Jhaniele Fowler-Reid is again imposing herself in her second season.
The Jamaican is way out in front on the goal-scoring charts, with 436 at 93.6 per cent, and Magic defenders Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin could be in for one hell of a task.
Goal attack Jodi Brown must not be forgotten either. In the Steel's 73-61 victory on the road against the Northern Mystics last weekend, she sank 25 goals - the most in her time playing with Fowler-Reid.
On the other side of the coin, the Magic's 44 goals against the Pulse was their lowest tally of the season and they need to be more accurate in bringing the ball through court to convert their opportunities. The Steel do have the second worst defensive record in the competition, conceding an average of 62.8 goals per match, and coach Janine Southby uses a rolling combination of defenders, including Rachel Rasmussen, who will again square off against younger sister Grace. In round three in Hamilton, the Magic were pushed hard by the Steel, before winning 61-57. Head to head they have a 10-4 advantage. However, in Invercargill the Steel lead 4-2.
- Waikato Times