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Matson: Past counts for nothing

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Sportal.co.nz     26 Oct 2012     Getty Images

That's the message emanating from the Canterbury team as they attempt to create a slice of NPC history.

Only Auckland at AMI Stadium, Christchurch, on Saturday night stand between Canterbury and a record fifth successive championship.

The past and present form guide favours Canterbury, who have won their last five encounters including a 33-11 victory in Christchurch in the second round of the premiership.

But Canterbury coach Tabai Matson said the emphasis was on the start and not the finishing post.

"We're at the start line again and this is the week we've all been dreaming about," Matson said.

"We've now been in a final for half a decade which is just outstanding. We're pumped about that and there's a lot of excitement.

"I think we sometimes undervalue the fact that getting to a final is really significant in anyone's rugby career and for us doing it five times doesn't take the gloss off.

"To play Auckland in a final at home is just what any Canterbury boy dreams of."

Matson has made just two changes to the team which overcame Taranaki, 51-27, in the semi-final after it had been 27-all at full-time.

All Blacks prop Ben Franks returns for his first appearance in place of Paea Fa'anunu, while a bruised retina has ruled out wing Adam Whitelock with second-string halfback Willi Heinz being entrusted with the unaccustomed role.

Despite winning by 22 points and outscoring Auckland three tries to one in the round-robin, Matson expects a competitive and combative final.

"Probably like us they've grown immensely from when we played them in round two and got the jump on them.

"It was a midweek game and we bounced off a loss [to Tasman] and were probably a little bit more organised on the day. That result is irrelevant now.

"The way they're playing and the way they shut out Wellington in the closing minutes on Saturday showed they're ready. It should be a classic game against an arch foe."