Conditions expected to test Taranaki
A wet and windy weather forecast and a late kick-off will be just two things Taranaki have to contend with when they host Bay of Plenty at Yarrow Stadium on Friday night.
With the All Blacks playing their final domestic test of the season on Saturday night and Sky Television insisting that two Mitre 10 rugby games can not be played at the same time, the crossover match has been scheduled to kick-off at 7.45pm.
By that time the Metservice expects heavy rain and strengthening winds to have hit New Plymouth which should add to the tricky nature of the fixture for the hosts.
While the TAB has Taranaki at almost a record short price to win, it's hard to imagine the same sort of complacency filtering into the minds of the Taranaki coaching staff.
They would have seen how Bay of Plenty dug in for a dog fight in their 20-17 win over Manawatu in similar conditions in Palmerston North last round and will expect nothing less from the visitors on Friday night.
"They have a forward pack that works hard and have a dangerous backline with threats throughout," Taranaki coach Colin Cooper insisted.
"We will have to bring the right attitude, as we did against Auckland."
While Taranaki have won three of their opening four matches, they are yet to truly dominate any opposition apart from repeated 20-minute periods in several games.
Bay of Plenty coach Clayton McMillan will have also taken a keen note of the fact that's Taranaki's lineout has been operating well under what is an acceptable standard and will no doubt have a plan to add to the home side's frustration by doing everything they can to disrupt it early.
Given that perceived weakness, it has been interesting, then, that McMillan has opted to start two of his best forwards - Tom Franklin and Mitchell Karpick - on the bench.
Not that Taranaki should be too worried about what has not been working well for them.
To a man they should be better than Friday night's starting opposition and there remains a feeling that if Taranaki can get more clarity around some of their play, particularly their work one off the ruck, then they should have enough firepower to roll the championship side.
What they will not want to happen would be for them to try too much, too early, if the conditions do not suit.
While their decision making was improved against Auckland at Eden Park, they should know the importance of playing in the right areas and show they can put enough pressure on opposition sides to force them into mistakes.
The return of captain Charlie Ngatai should help with some of that decision making while first five-eighth Stephen Perofeta would also benefit greatly from having his space a lot less cluttered.
Taranaki should also get some benefit out of fullback Marty McKenzie's improving form if conditions are testing on the night.
At a glance
Taranaki v Bay of Plenty
Friday, 7.45pm, Yarrow Stadium
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown
TAB: Taranaki $1.16 BOP $5.10
Taranaki: Marty McKenzie, Declan O'Donnell, Sean Wainui, Charlie Ngatai (c), Seta Tamanivalu, Stephen Perofeta, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Toa Halafihi, Lachlan Boshier, Pita-Gus Sowakula, Fin Hoeata, Brad Tucker, Angus Ta'avao, Ricky Riccitelli, Mitchell Graham. Reserves, Sione Lea, Reuben O'Neill, Asa Sorovaki, Leon Power, Adrian Wyrill, Kylem O'Donnell, Johnny Fa'auli, Manasa Mataele.
Bay of Plenty: Isaac Te Aute, Monty Ioane, Liam Steel, Lalakai Foketi, Chase Tiatia, Kelly Haimona, Luke Campbell, Tyler Ardron, Henry Stowers, Jesse Parete, Culum Retallick (c), Troy Callander, Jeff Thwaites, Sabastian Siataga, Aidan Ross. Reserves, James O'Reilly, Jordan Lay, James Lay, Tom Franklin, Mitchell Karpick, Mike Delany, Terrence Hepetema, Elijah Nicholas.