The Canterbury rugby side will be without eight All Blacks for tonight's Ranfurly Shield clash with Southland, but the challengers believe that may make them even tougher.
Canterbury have already clinched a home semi-final in the Air New Zealand Cup, while a loss tonight could see third placed Southland miss out on a play-off spot.
This is Canterbury's fifth and final defence of the season, while Southland last held the Shield in 1959.
The Southland co-coach David Henderson says Canterbury has great depth and the team taking the field tonight will be just as good if not better.
Henderson thinks perhaps Canterbury will be even tougher with their non-All Blacks having more to play for in the provincial competition than the national representatives.
He says those Canterbury players are playing for Super 14 contracts and sometimes All Blacks go through the motions in the domestic games.