Next week's Ranfurly Shield defence is also shaping up as pivotal for the run-in to the provincial rugby championship finals.
Shield holders Southland won't want to relinquish the old log as well as more ground on the table to Canterbury, after they lost at Taranaki and the champion red and blacks went two points clear of the Stags on the ladder with their win at Otago.
Taranaki are third following their 23-6 win over the visiting Southlanders while Waikato are fourth and in semi-final contention after their 45-33 victory at Northland.
But the Mooloo men's win come at a cost with halfback Brendon Leonard taken to hospital after being knocked out in a blow to his hopes of regaining his All Blacks jersey at the end of the month.
Canterbury took full advantage of Southland's loss at Taranaki on Saturday, beating Otago 35-20 at Carisbrook with All Blacks end of year tour hopeful Sonny Bill Williams among the four tryscorers, as the champions notched the bonus point.
Manawatu host Tasman in Palmerston North this afternoon before Counties Manukau welcome North Harbour at Pukekohe - the Steelers can leapfrog Wellington into the crucial top seven with a win.
There are three rounds remaining before the finals series - the All Blacks' northern tour begins at the end of the month with the Hong Kong Bledisloe Cup Test.