Trent Renata has played in every game for Waikato this season, but he knows today's season-ender against Hawke's Bay could be one of the toughest and most important.
The goal-kicking fullback, who has scored 94 points this season, is now one of the most experienced players in the team, having brought up his 50th cap four games ago.
He played his part in last week's Ranfurly Shield upset victory over Taranaki in New Plymouth and three days later in the away win over Counties Manukau that steered Waikato clear of relegation danger.
But if Waikato want to keep the shield for the summer and go into next season as the holders they must beat the Magpies at Waikato Stadium in today's 5.35pm clash.
For bottom-placed premiership team Hawke's Bay to retain their premiership status they have to beat Waikato today, which naturally would also mean lifting the log o' wood, and then hope Bay of Plenty don't upset Canterbury in Christchurch tomorrow.
That makes the Magpies, even though they are $5 outsiders at the TAB, desperate and dangerous. Renata knows just how dangerous, having personally experienced two losses to them in 2008, which followed another two losses in 2007.
"They've got everything to gain and nothing to lose," said Renata.
"Over the years I've been involved we've notched up a win here at home [30-22] and I think the last time we played back there a couple of seasons ago they kicked a 50-metre penalty to draw the game [27-27].
"They definitely get up for us and [today] we're definitely going to get up for them.
"They'll be coming for that shield."
Renata has started every game this season except the one against Tasman where Tim Mikkelson started at fullback and Renata came off the bench.
That is a tough ask in such a compact competition with mid-week matches and short turnarounds and only first-five Piers Francis, with more appearances off the bench than Renata, has matched it in terms of games played.
"That's just the way it is these days and the way the competition goes. I'd like to think if you're up for it and your body's sweet you're going to keep on going," he said.
After what he describes as a "rollercoaster-ride" season Waikato are out of the running for a third semifinals appearance in a row.
"But we've got the second best thing in claiming the shield a week ago and after that we went to Counties still in the drop zone and fought our way out.
"Going into this game we treat it no differently. It's our little final and the shield's on the line so we're looking forward to it," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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