PIC Counties Manukau Steelers welcome back Co-Captains Jimmy Tupou and Augustine Pulu for their Mitre 10 Cup match against Canterbury in Christchurch on Wednesday evening.
The match, which doubles as a Ranfurly Shield challenge, is four years almost to the day since the PIC Steelers won the symbol of supremacy in New Zealand provincial rugby for the first time in their history.
But head coach Darryl Suasua has not mentioned the words Ranfurly Shield to his team, adamant that a strong performance is his sole focus.
With one win from their opening four games, Suasua said his side has more basic goals for Wednesday night.
“We’ve not even talked about the Shield. We need competition points. We have to earn the right to stay in this competition and to wear the jersey.”
The PIC Steelers won their opening game over Auckland but lost without reward against Taranaki and North Harbour and dropped their standards in the loss to Waikato.
“We let the Taranaki game slip from our grasp in the final minute. And while we struggled territorially in the second spell against Harbour, the reality was that with four minutes to go we were still in that game.
“We are making simple mistakes at critical moments. It is not so much opposition beating us but us beating ourselves, so for us the focus is on an 80 minute performance.”
There are only four players who played in that historic win over Hawkes Bay on 7 September 2013 in the starting line-up to meet Canterbury in Tupou, Pulu, Ronald Raaymakers and Baden Kerr.
Tupou returns at lock with Viliame Rarasea, with in-form lock Matiaha Martin injured in training, while Johnathan Kawau gets his first start on the openside flank.
In the backs Pulu and Kerr return at inside backs with last-game captain Stephen Donald moving out to second five, while Chiefs back Tim Nanai-Williams remains at centre after an eye-catching display against North Harbour and Samoan international Albert Nikoro moves to the wing for his first start.
The PIC Steelers have a strong looking bench that includes Maori All Black Joe Royal, halfback Jonathan Taumateine, outstanding against North Harbour and New Zealand Under-20 midfield back Orbyn Leger.
The PIC Steelers return home to meet Hawkes Bay at ECOLight Stadium on Sunday at 2.35pm, for their third game in 11 days.
The PIC Steelers team is: 1. Pauliasi Manu, 2. Gafatasi Su’a, 3. Kalolo Tuiloma,, 4. Viliame Rarasea, 5. Jimmy Tupou 6. Ronald Raaymakers, 7. Johnathan Kawau, 8. Sam Henwood; 9. Augustine Pulu ©,10. Baden Kerr, 11. Albert Nikoro, 12. Stephen Donald, 13. Tim Nanai-Williams, 14. Nigel Ah Wong, 15. Luteru Laulala.
Reserves: Forwards: 16. Joe Royal, 17. Sean Bagshaw, 18. Coree Te Whata-Colley, 19. Leroy Jack, 20. Fotu Lokotui, 21. Jonathan Taumateine, 22. Orbyn Leger, 23. Sam Furniss.