Rugby: Resurgent Northland eye elusive Ranfurly Shield glory

Shield fever is sweeping the far north, as Northland gear up for a shot at the Ranfurly Shield on Friday.

The Taniwha take on Hawkes Bay for the log of wood, a prize the region hasn't seen since 1978.

But both the players and the fans sense that's about to change. 

There's a huge sense of belief from the side, who currently sit top of the Mitre 10 Cup championship table with four from five wins so far this season.

"It would mean so much man it will be the highlight of my rugby career," says flanker Tom Robinson.

The team want to do it for the fans as much as themselves, who have been starved of provincial rugby's greatest prize.

"Our community is a huge part of us and we love representing it and we love making them proud," he adds.

And the community senses history. Given Northland's success this year, bar owners are preparing for a huge night on Friday.

"There's a huge amount of buzz around it everyone coming in talking about it...and we've booked a band," says one local owner.

In 1972, 40,000 packed Whangarei's Okara Park for Northland's defence against Auckland at a time when the city's population was only 34,000.

And if Whangarei does become the home of the Ranfurly Shield this weekend, you can bet there'll be 40 year's worth of celebrating being done.

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