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ITM Cup Preview: Waikato v Bay of Plenty

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Thursday, July 29, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, Saturday July 31, 18.30 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 75 – Waikato 47, Bay of Plenty 24, drawn 4.

LAST TIME: August 22, 2009 (Mt Maunganui) – Bay of Plenty 32-16 Waikato.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: July 24, 2008 – Waikato 40-44 Bay of Plenty (non-championship).

MATCH ODDS: TAB (Tuesday): Waikato $1.65, Bay of Plenty $2.15.

WALKING WOUNDED: Both sides have named strong teams for the season opener, with the only notable omission from either team being the still-recovering Mike Delany is missing from the Steamers.

FORM: Bay of Plenty ran off three straight in the pre-season, beating Manawatu handily, Hawke's Bay (at Napier) for the first time in a while and ending with a narrow victory over Taranaki. Waikato started with a good win over Auckland but lost a more sternly contested match to Taranaki by 17-28.

WHO'S HOT: Waikato's recent All Blacks Liam Messam and Brendon Leonard obviously have a thing or two to prove to the wise men, especially with an end-of-year tour looming. Both will need consistently good performances in the ITM Cup to back their claims. In the tight five, Waikato will look for Romana Graham to make a step to the fore; he has a ton of natural ability and now needs to start dominating games at this level. Bay of Plenty has an experienced pack with Culum Retallick likely to be a star this season, while Colin Bourke is one of those players who is looking for a big season on the back of his best Super 14 season to date. A great deal will be asked of Taniela Moa at halfback, as he could set the line alight if he's in synch with his team-mates and there's plenty of skill outside him.

WE THINK: While Waikato is the TAB favourite, we're going to call against that and tip Bay of Plenty in the closest call of the weekend. Waikato looks a good side and will be a difficult opponent, but we're going Bay of Plenty by the odd score on the back of a good and settled pre-season.

TEAMS:

Waikato: 1. Toby Smith, 2. Aled de Malmanche, 3. Nathan White (captain), 4. Romana Graham, 5. Toby Lynn, 6. Liam Messam, 7. Jack Lam, 8. Stephen Setephano, 9. Brendon Leonard, 10. Trent Renata, 11. Dwayne Sweeney, 12. Jackson Willison, 13. Save Tokula, 14. Sosene Anesi, 15. Christian Leali'ifano.

Reserves: 16. Vern Kamo, 17. Hikairo Forbes, 18. Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 19. Matt Vant Leven, 20. Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21. Henry Speight, 22. Tim Mikkelson.

Bay of Plenty: 1. Joe Savage, 2. John Pareanga, 3. Josh Hohneck, 4. Luke Andrews, 5. Culum Retallick, 6. Luke Braid, 7. Tanerau Latimer, 8. Colin Bourke (captain), 9. Taniela Moa, 10. Daniel Waenga, 11. Jason Hona, 12. Grant McQuoid, 13. Brett Mather, 14. Lance MacDonald, 15. Toby Arnold.

Reserves: 16. Simon Chisholm, 17. James McGougan, 18. Aidan Kuka, 19. Solomon King or Sam Cane, 20. Chad Tuoro, 21. Phil Burleigh, 22. Lelia Masaga.

REFEREE: Kane McBride