Air NZ Cup Preview: Bay of Plenty v Tasman

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Bay Park Stadium, Mt Maunganui, Thursday September 17, 19.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 3 – Bay of Plenty 3, Tasman 0.

LAST TIME: July 31, 2008 (Blenheim) – Taman 7-8 Bay of Plenty.

WALKING WOUNDED: Neither side is in bad shape for this one. Bay of Plenty gets Joe Savage back at loosehead, while will help solidify the scrum although Colin Bourke remains captain. Zac Hohneck takes over from Mark Burman on the flank and Wayne Hughson replaces Corey Aporo at centre, but these are discretionary swaps. Tasman gets two Super 14 players, Kade Poki and Lucky Mulipola, back in midfield which pushes Andrew Goodman into first-five and Afeleki Pelenise out to the wing.

FORM: Bay of Plenty lost a hard top-of-the-table clash at Invercargill last week but never really threatened to take control of the match. They were not the first and won't be the last team n 2009 to gradually knuckle under to the powerful Southland pack, whose territorial domination eventually proved a decisive factor. Tasman claimed a fine win over Waikato, scoring early in each half and making few errors on the way to a clear-cut victory. The defence and the work at the breakdown were notable features of Tasman's game.

WHO'S HOT: Savage will be a welcome addition in the Bay front row because he and James McGougan are a well-matched pair who perform significantly better in combination than separately. Phil Burleigh and Wayne Hughson in midfield have a big job on their hands but are well capable of putting plenty of pressure on Tasman. Tristan Moran was called upon to fill Ben Franks' place when the All Black dropped out for the year and has done a fine job that may have caught pundits on the hop, although he's been around the scene for a while now. Kahn Fotuali'i had his best game in some time last week and will be asked for a repeat while Robbie Malneek is sure to get plenty of practice at fielding long kicks and how he handles them could be telling.

WE THINK: This is a very tough game to call between two even sides that features plenty of good one-on-ones. After a fair bit of thought we're going for Tasman by 5-10 points, simply because their play is a little more rounded at present, but take it as read that the TAB won't be seeing any of our cash on this one.


Bay of Plenty: 1 – Joe Savage, 2 – John Pareanga, 3 – James McGougan, 4 – John Moore, 5 – Culum Retallick, 6 – Zac Hohneck, 7 – Luke Braid, 8 – Colin Bourke (captain), 9 – Junior Poluleuligaga, 10 – Mike Delany, 11 – Jason Hona, 12 – Phil Burleigh, 13 – Wayne Hughson, 14 – Nigel Hunt, 15 – Toby Arnold.

Reserves: 16 – Dean Elmiger, 17 – Josh Hohneck, 18 – Mark Burman, 19 – Matt Henwood, 20 – Josh Hall, 21 – Corey Aporo, 22 – Zar Lawrence.

Tasman: 1 – Sakaria Taulafo, 2 – Quentin MacDonald, 3 – Tristan Moran, 4 – Alex Ainley, 5 – Joe Wheeler, 6 – Glen Gregory, 7 – Jonathan Poff, 8 – Mark Bright, 9 – Kahn Fotuali'i, 10 – Andrew Goodman (captain), 11 – Afeleki Pelenise, 12 – Kade Poki, 13 – Lucky Mulipola, 14 – Blair Cook, 15 – Robbie Malneek.

Reserves: 16 – Daniel Perrin, 17 – Hamish Cochrane, 18 – Anthony Elisala, 19 – Zane Winslade, 20 – Shaun Begg, 21 – Matty James, 22 – James Kamana.

REFEREE: Nathan Pearce (Australia)