The old challenge system has departed as home games in the Bunnings NPC become automatic defences for the holder.
But that hasn't detracted from the appeal of the ‘Shield’ or ‘Log-of-Wood’.
After seeing off challenges from Poverty Bay and South Canterbury in the preseason, Hawke’s Bay face their first challenge of the Bunnings NPC season on Friday when Counties Manukau head to Napier to attempt to prise the Shield from Magpies, who will be defending the trophy for the 12th time in this tenure.
Behind heavyweight unions Auckland (148) and Canterbury (139), Hawke's Bay's 68 defences are the third best on record.
The community factor increases when the Shield is on the line. Lock Isaia Walker-Leawere, a member of the Hawke's Bay team that lifted the Shield from Otago 28-9 in 2020, said it was possible to feel the community get in behind the side.
"Just being at home is something else, it's special," he said.
For several of the Hawke's Bay players their challenge in 2020 was their first.
"Just to go down there…and when we got over that line [28-9] it was the best feeling ever."
Former All Blacks captain Ian Kirkpatrick played for Canterbury when he experienced his first challenge, something the red and blacks hadn't had for some years.
"We came up here [Napier], it was the last game of that season, right at the end of September, and, I think, Hawke's Bay, after playing North Auckland on the Tuesday, were probably still a little bit tired out. I think they all probably said they were quite pleased to see it go.
"We ended up taking it off them, but they had a wonderful record, probably almost the longest tenure of any province [to that time]. They had three or four years of great Shield rugby and it made rugby in Hawke's Bay, that's for sure."
However, while part of the winning Canterbury team, Kirkpatrick never got to defend the Shield as he had returned to his home region of Poverty Bay in 1971.
A member of the 1960s side that defended the Shield through 21 challenges, three short of the record set by the 1920s Bay side, first five-eighths Blair Furlong, said Shield rugby was a higher level than the usual provincial games.
"There's a lot on it because winning the Shield is important, but defending the Shield is just as important and no one wants to be in a team that loses it ," he said.
The public gave great support to Shield teams.
"The modern game has a lot to offer for the spectator. They want to come and watch it. It's the camaraderie. It pulls everyone together. It pulls the province together, The support's fantastic, but the players play for each other, more I think than in a run-of-the mill-game.
Halfback Brad Weber had a different perspective on the Shield. He was born and bred in Hawke's Bay and followed the team growing up.
"I remember coming to McLean Park watching the Magpies, and that was the team I wanted to play for."
But, he was in the Waikato team that lifted the Shield from Hawke's Bay in the last game of the 2015 season. He scored three tries in the game, knowing he would be involved in the Shield defences in the next season because he had already signed to return to Hawke's Bay.
"Going into it, you know it is not just another game. You try and think of it like that but you run out and when you run out that thing [the Shield] is sitting right there you just know it's something different," he said.
Hawke's Bay host Counties Manukau at McLean Park in Napier at 7.05pm on Friday. Watch live on Sky Sport.