The sound of bolts and chains clashing sends shivers down the spine as the Southland Stags prepare to enter the clubrooms.
It was back from Blenheim yesterday and straight to watching rugby footage of the Hawke's Bay Magpies versus Taranaki Ranfurly Shield match from last Friday night in New Plymouth.
Southland coach David Henderson comes across as eerily serene for someone whose team has yet to win a game after four rounds of the ITM Cup competition following another gut-wrenching 13-10 defeat at the hands of giant-killing Tasman Makos on Wednesday night at Lansdowne Park, Blenheim.
It was remarkably the Makos' first victory over the Stags in five attempts.
For Stags captain Jamie Mackintosh and his troops it must be desperate times but Henderson is keeping his cool for now.
"You can't panic. It is what it is, so you have to focus on the next match and work on it," says the 47-year-old former Southland rep.
The lower-tier championship side hosts the premiership Magpies on Sunday at Rugby Park Stadium, Invercargill, from 4.35pm in a crossover match.
He hastens to add not long ago Hawke's Bay were in a similar turbulent phase, trying to shrug off a rash of defeats on the trot.
With just one win - 37-30 in round three against the Tana Umaga-coached Counties Manukau at McLean Park, Napier on September 2 - from four games, it is fair to say the Craig Philpott and Danny Lee-coached Magpies are also dodging their fair share of potholes on the way to securing a play-off berth in the National Provincial Championship this season.
If the Hawke's Bay Today's TEXT 2 ED column is anything to go by, some frustrated fans here are beginning to question the thought process behind removing last season's Magpies coaching stable of Peter Russell and Tom Coventry.
"Peter Russell's Falcons win again, Craig Philpott's Magpies lose again. Magpies couldn't pull through again. That's what you get for tossing away a winning combo. Poor players. Bring back PR & TC!" says a detractor's text message.
"Magpies in that exact situation and game. If Russell (and Coventry) were still there with the same team would they have won?" another texter questions.
Whether the coaches should be held accountable or the players or both is open to debate but Henderson accepts it's not an ideal situation for the collective.
"We had a chance to win last night [Wednesday against the Makos] but we didn't take it so you only have yourselves to blame," says the former bustling flanker who was lethal in the mould of older twin brother and former All Black Paul Henderson.
Henderson points out the Magpies have had a tough run in a short burst, playing against major union sides Auckland and Wellington first up.
On the other hand, Tasman and Counties Manukau, who are in the cup championship - which is effectively the second division competition allocated four crossover games against premiership sides - are formidable opponents who could beat any of the premiership campaigners on their day.
A season-opening victory over Canterbury and a narrow defeat at the hands of Ranfurly Shield holders Taranaki are a testimony to Tasman's ability.
While Henderson agrees former Magpies coach Kieran Keane and former All Black utility back Leon MacDonald have done a sterling job to date, he fears injuries will take their toll on the Makos seeking promotion to the premiership ranks.
Injuries haven't helped Southland's cause either and having to inject a rash of young and inexperienced players put further pressure on finding cohesiveness and continuity.
Henderson's delighted to see the return of explosive No8 Elliot Dixon who has recovered from a chest injury incurred while playing for the Highlanders against the Sharks in Durban in May.
He is hopeful openside flanker Tim Boys, nursing a shoulder injury, will return to the fold, too, with Super Rugby loosie John Hardie carrying a foot injury picked up in a pre-season game against Otago in Balclutha.
Blindside flanker Brayden Mitchell has a knee injury.
"We've obviously still got some niggles but you can't worry so you just have to do the best with what you've got."
Despite Wednesday night's loss, Southland showed a hardnosed approach as they adopted an open-style, pack mentality to attack in search of the Makos' line, something the Magpies didn't do in their shield challenge, albeit in inclement weather.
Henderson, who was part of a shield challenge where Southland lost by four points to a Canterbury outfit boasting ex-ABs such as Andrew Mehrtens, Mark Mayerhofler and Justin Marshall, doesn't think a home advantage will mean much.
"Every game against Hawke's Bay is tough," he explained, after the Stags slumped 29-18 to the Magpies in Napier last winter.
Ironically, Southland, who won the shield from Canterbury in Christchurch on July 23, 2011, before handing it over to Taranaki on August 24 that year after six successful defences, finished last in the premiership title race.
Conversely the Magpies, who were second qualifiers in the lower-tier championship, beat top qualifiers Manawatu Turbos in the final to clinch the silverware as well as gain promotion to the premiership.
In their five-year reign, Russell and Coventry took the Magpies to three semifinals (2007-09) before finishing eighth in 2010, albeit a solitary point behind the seventh-placed team.
Consequently it came as a bolt from the blue to some Magpies faithful that Russell was surplus to requirements.
However, it's debatable whether Coventry left because of greener pasture in Waikato or the forwards coach was out by default, being part of a coaching staff with a redundant philosophy to helping Hawke's Bay go beyond the play-offs in a bid to lift their maiden premiership ITM Cup.
No doubt, Philpott and Lee will be threading their worry beads but it is only the fifth round and the Magpies of past have dug themselves out of a hole before.
To Philpott's credit, despite the exodus of marquee players such as Sona Taumalolo, Kahn Fotuali'i, Brodie Retallick, Bryn Evans and Anthony Perenise, he hasn't played the development card, emphasising they recruited a mixture of experience and youth this season with an eye to making the play-offs.