THE bubbling tension that has existed all season between rugby rivals Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie threatens to boil over in the middle of the semi final series with the ugly subject of 'rucking' rearing its head.
Once an accepted method for clearing a rival near the ball, over-vigorous use of football boots on opposition players hasn't been totally banned by the International Rugby Board but its worst excesses as a tactic are now openly frowned upon.
Various degrees still occur in moments of weakness, desperation or payback.
According to who you believe, the dark art of rucking went unchecked in last Saturday's major semi-final with the premiers largely on the receiving end, an accusation scoffed at by rival skipper, Peter Besseling.
And in the wake of that 17-8 loss to Pirates and the game's central official re-appointed, coach Paul Butcher has appealed to referee Matt Blackham to eliminate 'tap dancing' on fallen players from today's preliminary final against Hastings Valley at Park Beach Plaza Rugby Park.
"Rugby is hard, we like rucking and don't want to look like a bunch of girls trying to get away from that side of the game," Butcher said.
"We're not worried about it so long as it's not jumping up and down on a player.
"The requirement is to step over a fallen player, not do a tap dance on him."
Butcher has been working in the city this week so the final squad selected to play Vikings won't be known until late morning.
But it's rumoured evergreen playmaker Brendan Hoy could play a more active role, especially if Vikings' exciting fly half Jeremy McKinnon starts making inroads and the situation needs to be rectified with strong medicine.
Coffs are at prohibitive odds to make it through for a repeat appearance with Pirates in the decider.
The Vikings haven't been successful on a northern sojourn since 2002 and Coffs won both minor season matches, 22-13 (May 26) and 46-3 (July 21).
Coffs appear in every grade today with the Second XV facing Port Pirates and under-18s up against Wingham/Taree.