The Hawkes Bay Magpies are gearing up for their final Ranfurly Shield defence of the season as they look to face a tough Waikato side this Friday night at McLean Park.
It will be the Magpies 12th shield defence of the season and a win will see the shield stay in the Bay until next season rolls around.
"This week it's a big week, obviously the last shield challenge of the year, we're really desperate to hold on to it and we're doing everything that we can," says Magpies wing, Ryan Tongia.
Head coach Craig Philpott admits it has been a long year for his team, who had heartland defences early on the in the season, "but we're in a pretty good space it's a really good way to lead into the semi-finals the following week."
With seven ITM Cup wins to their name, it has put them at the top of the Championship table, but getting a promotion to the premiership hasn't been far off the radar.
"It's in the back of our minds, it has been throughout the year, and we are effectively playing in two competitions playing in the Ranfurly competition and the ITM Cup Championship."
With so much on the line ahead of the semi-finals next week, it's expected that a 10,000 strong crowd will pack out McLean Park come Friday night.