BASINGSTOKE RFC are determined to end their season on a high by winning the Hampshire Cup at Down Grange on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).
Standing in their way are old arch rivals Havant. Between them, the two teams have won the trophy seven times in the last 10 years.
’Stoke’s last triumph came in 2012, while Havant won the cup four years on the trot from 2005.
This sequence was broken when Basingstoke RFC won at Havant, which was the last time the pair locked horns in the final.
A bumper crowd is expected at Down Grange for the showdown between the top two sides in the county.
Following ’Stoke’s relegation from National League Three London, the teams will renew their rivalry next season in London One South, which adds extra spice to Saturday’s encounter.
Basingstoke RFC director of rugby James Croker said: “It would be nice to end the season with some silverware. Last season, this competition was not a priority, but this year it is, and we want to end on a high.”
Last season, ’Stoke failed to reach the final of the competition for the first time in six years, having lifted the trophy three times in the previous five years.
Their mission this weekend is to win it again, but they face Havant, who have twice won in cup finals at Down Grange in 2006 and 2008.
Croker is keen for his side to end the season on positive note after suffering relegation back to London One South.
This is the league Havant play in and they have just finished mid-table, so the cup game will be a chance to put a marker down for the next campaign.
Croker said: “It is nice to end the season at home and hopefully we can win some silverware.
“For me, the new season starts here and it is a chance to stamp some authority on our next campaign.”
He added: “In the last two seasons, we have had a lot of cup final-type games, so I think our players are used to playing under this sort of pressure.”
’Stoke nearly have a full squad to pick from and Croker admits there will be some difficult selection decisions to make.
The only Basingstoke players missing are injured fly-half Adam Davies and the unavailable Kochanowski brothers, Jobi and Rudi.
Croker said: “It is a shame the Kochanowski boys cannot play.
“They joined us from Trojans at the start of the year and been great servants to the club.
“It would have been nice for them, being Hampshire players, to win the cup.”
Havant ended their league campaign with a mixed set of results, winning their last home game 52-15 over Staines, but then losing 50-21 on the final day of the season at Wimbledon.
Croker said: “We are looking forward to the challenge and Havant have not changed much since we played them last.”
This was back in 2012/13, when Basingstoke completed the league double over their Hampshire rivals.
Croker added: “They have a decent hooker and some direct runners, so we will work on a few things in training ahead of the game.”