Waikato have rewarded the players who won the Ranfurly Shield for them by selecting all but the unavailable Tim Mikkelson to defend it.
Mikkelson is required in Australia to help New Zealand begin the world series sevens circuit on Queensland's Gold Coast.
But the other 21 players from last week's shield win over Taranaki have been named to defend the shield against Hawke's Bay in Waikato's final NPC premiership match of the season at Waikato Stadium tomorrow at 5.35pm.
Nineteen-year-old winger Joe Webber takes Mikkelson's place on the wing with Navi Sikivou, who was a reserve last Saturday against Counties-Manukau for the first time, replacing Webber on the bench.
Waikato brought 10 new players into the starting XV and another six on the bench for the 32-28 win over Counties-Manukau in Pukekohe with a number of the first-choice group knocked about by the big effort in New Plymouth three days earlier.
But all have recovered to take their places for tomorrow.
"[Romana Graham] and Toby [Smith] haven't trained all week and had their first runaround today since Taranaki so it's good to have them back," Waikato head coach Chris Gibbes said yesterday.
"Our medical team have done a bloody good job to be fair, because there were a fair few walking wounded and to have [all the players] for this last training is pretty awesome."
Gibbes said the performance of the second-string team against the Steelers had forced the coaches to think long and hard about their selections this week.
"But it came back to the fact that those were the guys who did the job for us down in New Plymouth and we wanted to reward them."
Sam Christie has held his starting spot in the No 10 jersey after a fine performance against Taranaki despite being selected for that game only once regular starter Piers Francis injured a leg.
"Isn't that what it's about. He took his opportunity. I think both of them are playing pretty well so it's a pretty tight competition there and while this team gets the nod Peaches [Francis] will play a role off the bench," Gibbes said.
The fact Waikato can field their standout tight five from the shield victory against Taranaki is a big plus with Smith, Marcel Cummings-Toone, Ben May, Graham and rookie lock Sam Kilgour, who also played against the Steelers, all back to take their place.
Flankers Matt Vant Leven and Zak Hohneck are also back, joining their skipper Alex Bradley in the loose forward trio.
Add halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow and second five-eighth Jackson Willison to the mix after they both missed the Counties match and Waikato have the chance to reproduce the standout performance that last week lifted them New Zealand's most famous rugby trophy and transformed their season from a poor one to a memorable one.
Waikato: Trent Renata, Declan O'Donnell, Save Tokula, Jackson Willison, Joe Webber, Sam Christie, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Alex Bradley (c), Zak Hohneck, Matt Vant Leven, Sam Kilgour, Romana Graham, Ben May, Marcel Cummings-Toone, Toby Smith. Res: Vance Elliott, Latu Talakai/Ted Tauroa, Anthony Wise, Rory Grice, Brendon Leonard, Piers Francis, Navi Sikivou.
- © Fairfax NZ News