The Taranaki team has deliberately avoided focusing on the Ranfurly Shield this week.
Although that may have been difficult with the prized Log o' Wood sitting on the sideline at training ahead of tonight's defence against Tasman at Yarrow Stadium.
After advice from former Southland prop Chris King, who enjoyed two terms with the Shield down south before transferring to Taranaki, the side just wants to focus on improving from their first-up national provincial championship win over Bay of Plenty.
"We didn't want to play the game before Saturday but we started ramping things up on Thursday and we have been a lot sharper," Tenderlink Taranaki captain Jason Eaton said yesterday. "I think everyone's in a good head space. We learnt a lot from playing Bay of Plenty and I'm pretty happy with the game plan we've come up with."
That game plan has been kept under wraps, especially with the Shield at stake.
While the 37-22 win at Mt Maunganui was a solid start and came with a bonus point, Taranaki coach Colin Cooper was bristling over some of the defensive work his side put in, especially around the breakdown.
Cue some serious work on Monday and Tuesday as Taranaki look to keep their reputation as the best defensive side in the NPC.
Eaton has taken the manner of Tasman's first-up 25-22 win over Canterbury with a "pinch of salt" because he knows tonight's visitors will have a "surprise or two up their sleeve", given they have been planning for this game for quite some time.
Countering any surprises would simply involve Taranaki getting on the front foot, taking their early chances and converting them into points.
The more Tasman fall behind, the more desperate they will become and the greater risks they will have to take.
"I expect them to attack us around the ruck but with the work we've done, I'm sure we can counter it if we are accurate," Eaton said.
As well as the ruck defence, Taranaki will also need to concentrate on maintaining possession for longer periods. Too often last week players got over the advantage line only to lose possession when the Bay of Plenty players targeted the ball and not the man.
Once again, star first five-eighth Beauden Barrett will be a key contributor, especially if he can maintain his kicking accuracy and create space for his outside backs.
Taranaki's advantage over Tasman looks to be up front where their experience should give them an edge in the set-pieces, while Cooper can also call on two All Blacks from the bench with Andrew Hore and Scott Waldrom desperate to be part of the occasion.
One thing is certain: Taranaki will not go into their shell and play a dour brand of rugby.
"We want to go out and play positive rugby to begin with," Eaton said. "Chris King said they [Southland] got real defensive in their game plans and it took it out of them. We might need to go that way and we will play for territory and try and get points but we won't sit back and try and absorb their play."
The Tasman squad flew into New Plymouth yesterday afternoon and spent an hour at Yarrow Stadium.
Coach Kieran Keane said he was tempted to make a couple of changes to the side that downed Canterbury but retained the status quo given he felt they had stuck together so well for 80 minutes.
Keane said his side had not been short of enthusiasm this week.
"These opportunities don't come around too often and the boys have been quite mature in their approach. We've kept the tone down a bit but there has still been some good banter. It's been great really, very positive."
Asked if he did have something "up his sleeve" for the match, Keane was cagey.
"It all depends on what your opposition allows you to do because all the best-laid plans might be there but it will come down to essentially what we are able to do," he said. "But we've got a couple of things we want to do."
He was realistic about Tasman's opening win, saying Canterbury were "scratchy", while they still had lots of things to improve on.
Looking at Taranaki, he felt they posed threats in just about every position.
"They also have experience and they've been there and done that. They've achieved their nirvana last year and got the holy grail, so they know what it's all about. Our boys can only dream about it."
- © Fairfax NZ News
Have you lost faith in Taranaki rugby?Related story: Taranaki lose to Waikato
Get Taranaki's frequent news and sport updates