Hawke's Bay and Auckland kick-off the 2012 ITM Cup at McLean Park in Napier, where both teams will look to open their campaign with a win.
The hosts face a tricky against opening fixture in their first game in the Premiership after winning promotion from the Championship at the end of last season.
Hawke's Bay have proved to be a tough nut to crack at home in the past, but now under a new coach and with 15 players missing from their 2011 squad, Auckland will feel they have a chance at claiming an opening win to boost their confidence for the season ahead.
With the Aucks up against defending champions Canterbury on Wednesday, the visitors will be under no illussions that a winning start away from is crucial.
"If we can get through those first two weeks it will set us up really well. If we don't then we're going to be chasing the pack so it's very important that we get a good start," said Auckland coach Wayne Pivac.
Auckland are undefeated in the pre-season heading into this tournament opener, while the Magpies beat Manawatu and lost to Bay of Plenty.
The last time these two teams met, the played to a 34-34 draw in Auckland (in 2010).
Prediction: The Magpies will have plenty to prove that they belong in the Premiership, but we think Auckland will rain on their hosts' parade with a close win first up. Auckland by four!
Hawke's Bay: 15 Gillies Kaka, 14 Tino Nemani, 13 Star Timu, 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Daniel Waenga, 9 Chris Eaton, 8 Mike Coman (capt), 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Trent Boswell-Wakefield, 5 Maselino Paulino , 4 Ross Kennedy, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Brendon Edmonds
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Peter Borlase, 18 Kieran Coll, 19 Tivaini Fomai, 20 Isaac Paewai, 21 Tua Saseve, 22 Nick McLennan.
Auckland:15 Charles Piutau, 14 Ben Lam, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Hadleigh Parkes , 11 George Moala, 10 Gareth Anscombe 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Andrew Van der Heijden, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina / Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi/ Angus Ta'avao, 18 Nathan Hughes, 19 Sean Polwart, 20 Auvasa Faleali'i, 21 Tony Fenner, 22 Dave Thomas.
Date: Thursday, August 23
Venue: McLean Park, Napier