Only two games really matter in the final round of Taranaki premier club rugby before the semifinals.
With New Plymouth Old Boys and Tukapa already assured of the top two spots, whatever happens with Southern and Coastal on Saturday will decide who plays who a week later.
With Southern holding third place by one point, they need to get more competition points than fourth-placed Coastal, given they have been beaten by them twice in round robin play.
Their task is not that easy, given they have to play Old Boys, who have yet to drop a match in 2016, while Coastal travel to Inglewood to face a team that has nothing to play for.
If they do fail to finish third then they will return to Vogeltown Park for the play-off while Coastal will also had to New Plymouth to front Tukapa.
There is no doubt Old Boys want to finish the round robin competition unbeaten. Not many teams achieve the feat and it should not be downplayed if they manage it given how injuries have bitten the squad in the second round.
Top that off with losing Codey Rei, the best player in the competition this year, to Japan and they would have had genuine excuses for dropping the odd game.
The fact they haven’t is down to the fact they have found a way to win, sometimes from improbable positions.
They looked in trouble a week ago against Coastal but tightened up, dominated possession and defended with an organised line in the second half.
Southern are not without a real chance of winning, however. They have a settled squad, a pack that will not get shoved around and a backline that will get direction from first five Daniel Brooks with some genuine threats out wide.
Across from him, Old Boys captain Liam McBride has taken back the No 10 jersey from Josh Rei who drops down to the division one side, allowing Paddy Pale to start after he made an impression off the bench against Coastal.
Old Boys co-coach Michael Carr said they have continued with using hooker Willie McBride in the second row, even though they have lock cover on the bench, primarily because of his ball carrying.
“With the new ruck rules you have to make sure you get in behind defences and he can be quite explosive with ball in hand. He’s shown us he can do that.”
Old Boys found themselves in trouble early against Coastal, copping two yellow cards for ruck infringements, with Carr not complaining. instead, he just called for consistency across the board while he also admitted it had been a not so gentle reminder to the players.
Elsewhere, Coastal should prove too good for Inglewood if they play to their potential.
If they could have finished off some of the try scoring chances they created and taken one or two better options against Old Boys then they might have won. Make a few improvements to that performance and they will stretch an Inglewood defence that has struggled for consistency.
Tukapa will be out to put a decent 80 minutes together when they host Spotswood United.
It might be hard to argue Tukapa have not been the form side in recent weeks and they should be able to get a decent advantage up front against a Spotswood United team that has struggled to put back-to-back performances together.
Clifton might feel they owe their supporters a win after not being able to deliver on a promising start to their season. Stratford will dearly love to make it five wins for the season, however.
At a glance
NEW PLYMOUTH OLD BOYS v SOUTHERN
2.45pm, Saturday, Vogeltown Park
Referee: Richard Kelly
NPOB: Shaan Waite, Jack Carrington, Sione Aholava, Paddy Pale, Mike Rubick, Liam McBride (c), David Ormrod, Matt Wallace, Hamish Alabaster, Thomas McElroy, Trent Sutton, Willie McBride, Reuben O’Neill, Caleb Mawson, Mitch O’Neill. Reserves, Blake Morgan, Hamish Mitchell, Dean Stewart, Devan Lowl, Jayden Ford, Josh Rei, Caleb Ritai.
SOUTHERN: Trinity Spooner-Neera, Sam Lawson, Jackson Ormond (c), Brent Landers, Jade Taylor, Daniel Brooks, Regan Corbett, Jesse Parete, Daniel Parete, Trent Pickering, Dylan Kerei, Jon Smyth, Brody Norris, Todd Curtis, Jacob Northcott. Reserves, Murray Turner, Cameron Rowse, Peter Northcott, Karl Frost, Sean White, Dane Picot van Heuven, Luke Taplin.
❑Clifton v Stratford, Tikorangi
❑Tukapa v Spotswood Utd, Sanders Park
❑Inglewood v Coastal, TET Stadium