When Te Rapa took on Fraser-Tech eight weeks ago they were trounced 45-10.
Tomorrow they go into the Waikato premier club rugby rematch at St Andrews Park in a very different frame of mind.
The two teams are still at opposite ends of the Haswell Catley Trophy points table with Tech third and Te Rapa ninth.
But after two wins on the trot, making three for the season, the belief is growing among the Seafood Bazaar Te Rapa players and tomorrow they get to take on Shenanigans Fraser-Tech on their home track in front of a likely big crowd in attendance as part of the club's 50th jubilee celebrations.
Te Rapa have had to rebuild this season after losing a number of players from last year and taking on a new head coach in Tony Sua.
"The biggest thing that we've really tried to concentrate on has been mental and physical toughness trying to get the guys training pretty hard so that the trainings are harder than the games and so that in the games they are able to think a lot clearer when it matters," Sua said.
Sua, assistant coach Taati Heke and last year's assistant Luke Cameron have been working together to bring that about.
"But we've been really lucky because the guys have become more self-motivated and there's more belief in what they can do."
That attitude came about through a lot of trial and error and, finally, the breakthrough victory against Melville in round seven. Since then there has been an away loss to then competition leaders Otorohanga and wins over University and Te Awamutu Sports.
"It gave the boys a sense of belief," Sua said of the win over Melville, achieved "on adrenalin".
Before that Te Rapa tended to fade late in games after being competitive early on.
"We were there for say 65 minutes but that very last bit of the quarter we just couldn't pull it through," he said. "But, while we still have our up-and-down patches like any other team throughout the game, our positive play is a lot longer than it has been and it is more regular, more consistent."
Team captain and lock Marc Morunga had been a huge factor in turning the team around, with the players all having faith in him, Sua said.
"But our biggest test will be against the big guns this weekend."
Te Rapa have had the services of Waikato lock Toby Lynn for only one match, due in part to a rib injury, but are hoping to have his services tomorrow in the absence of veteran No 8 Tanginoa Nimo, a late injury defection. Lynn has been at plenty of Tuesday training runs to help the team out.
George Hita has provided consistency at No 7 and Tu Mateaki has been a key man on the other side of the scrum.
In the backs, the new 10-12-13 combination of Peni Tokotaha, Jordan Cameron and Semisi Fotu has proved successful. While Cameron has provided the bridge between last year and this year, the other two have arrived from Auckland and shown their worth, Fotu a regular at centre and wing for Horowhenua-Kapiti in Heartland Rugby last year.
The change in morale among the Te Rapa players is obvious.
"They were a little bit downhearted in the first round but now they know the second round is the business end and there's still a big chance for them to upset different teams," Sua said.
Last Saturday Te Rapa turned around a 20-0 first-up loss to Te Awamutu Sports with a 29-26 victory that meant a lot to Sua and Heke both former Te Awamutu players.
"It showed the difference now with the boys not giving up. In the first round if someone made a break they were like 'oh, I can't catch him', whereas now the guys are more urgent to make tackles and get to places they need to be," Sua said. "But that's come down to them being fitter."
The club's new viewing deck will be opened by Hamilton city councillor and club old boy Peter Bos at 12.30pm tomorrow, and the Te Rapa v Tech senior A match will be one of six games at St Andrews Park on the day.
Celebrations begin tonight with a mix-and-mingle as participants pick up registration packs. There is a champagne breakfast tomorrow, a dinner and dance tomorrow night and a barbecue lunch/farewell on Sunday.
Competition leaders CBD Hamilton Old Boys travel to Cambridge to take on fourth-placed APL Direct Hautapu.
Second-placed OTC Otorohanga will look to bounce back from their loss to Tech last week when they travel to Collins Rd to play TDO Melville.
Lodge City Rentals Hamilton Marist are at home to Ecolab Te Awamutu Sports and Nottingham Castle Morrinsville Sports travel to University.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Should Sonny Bill Williams stuck to rugby and come back to the Chiefs?Related story: (See story)