Waikato welcome back a quartet of All Blacks for their crucial Air NZ Cup rugby match against Taranaki on Thursday night.
The winners of the game in Hamilton between the seventh-placed Taranaki and eighth-placed Waikato will confirm a berth in the quarterfinals.
Waikato’s hopes have been boosted by the return from national duty of centre Richard Kahui, first five-eighth Stephen Donald, wing Sitiveni Sivivatu and No 8 Sione Lauaki, all of whom have been named in their starting 15.
It will mark the first matches for the province by Kahui and Sivivatu since the inaugural Air NZ Cup final in 2006.
Kahui was not available last season while recovering from shoulder surgery and Sivivatu was away with the All Blacks at the World Cup.
Donald and Lauaki played for Waikato in the earlier stages of this year’s competition before All Blacks commitments dragged them away.
“It is great to welcome back our All Blacks this week. They have been keen at training and are having a positive impact in our squad,” coach Tony Hanks said.