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ITM Cup Preview: Tasman v Southland

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Thursday, August 26, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Lansdowne Park, Blenheim, Friday August 27, 19.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 3 – Tasman 0, Southland 3.

LAST TIME: October 10, 2009 (Invercargill) – Southland 41-0 Tasman.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: September 19, 2008 – Tasman 3-6 Southland.

MATCH ODDS: NZ TAB (Tuesday): Tasman $1.87, Southland $1.87.

WALKING WOUNDED: Tasman only shows gains this week, with Ben Coman in at lock and Afeleki Pelenise returning on the wing. Glen Gregory switches to blindside and two Super 14 players, Poutasi Luafutu and Blair Cook, move to the bench. Kane Thompson (shoulder and abdominal strains) and Robbie Robinson (leg) were in doubt for Southland during the week, but both made the 22. There was some talk Jason Rutledge might be rested but he has been named to start what should be a tough match.

FORM:

SEASON TO DATE:
Tasman
Round 1: Lost to Wellington 11-20
Round 2: Lost to Taranaki 11-33
Round 3: Beat Hawke’s Bay 21-7
Round 4: Beat Canterbury 27-25

SEASON TO DATE:
Southland
Round 1: Beat Manawatu 37-23
Round 2: Beat Otago 16-12 (RS)
Round 3: Beat Counties-Manukau 13-9 (RS)
Round 4: Beat Hawke’s Bay 23-20

Both teams score good, if narrow, wins last weekend and both deserved them. Tasman took advantage of Canterbury’s indifferent attitude to hoe into the visitors and, as the pressure and score mounted, to let the visitors know who was in charge. The trash-talking may have got out of hand at times, but it did seem to put Canterbury off its stroke as well and some of the younger Canterbury players lost focus as a result. Southland didn’t worry about talking, as it had its work cut out keeping Hawke’s Bay out when the marginal calls were all going against the Stags. Two Bay tries could have been brought back for midfield obstruction and the third should never have been awarded as Ross Kennedy lost the ball cold over the line, but Southland concentrated on what it could control and took another hard-fought win to remain the only unbeaten side.

WHO'S HOT: Chris Jack has stepped to the front for Tasman after a quiet start and led the team well at Nelson. He’s getting good support from the entire pack, where Jonathan Poff is standing out with his usual busy contributions around the park. The Marshall brothers are looking likely in the five-eighths, with Tom one of the more promising second-fives going around and James having by far his best season in the inner position. Veteran fullback Robbie Malneek has lost none of his dash or skill. Southland may have done a lot of defending last week but they did it well and the forwards make a ton of tackles. John Hardie is always in the thick of things, while Chris King is a scrum anchor and a tough nut in the dark places. Robbie Robinson found his goal-kicking touch last weekend and his general play was sharp, while Matt Saunders was strong in the midfield and scored a well-taken try.

WE THINK: Last time these teams met in Blenheim they turned on one of the worst games for years, but the 2010 sides are a lot better than that and this should be a beauty. After a fair bit of thought we’ve gone for Southland by five to ten points, although we acknowledge that Tasman’s straight-running tactics may cause a few issues for the tight Stags defence.

TEAMS:

Tasman: 1. Sam Prattley, 2. Francis Smith, 3. Fai Mika, 4. Ben Coman, 5. Chris Jack (captain), 6. Glen Gregory, 7. Jonathan Poff, 8. Joseph Wheeler, 9. Steve Alfeld, 10. James Marshall, 11. Jack Umaga, 12. Tom Marshall, 13. Kade Poki, 14. Afeleki Pelenise, 15. Robbie Malneek.

Reserves: 16. Vernon Fredericks, 17. Hamish Cochrane, 18. Shane Christie, 19. Poutasi Luafutu, 20. Kaide Whiting, 21. Sione Holani, 22. Blair Cook.

Southland: 1. Jamie Mackintosh (captain), 2. Jason Rutledge, 3. Chris King, 4. Josh Bekhuis, 5. Joe Tuineau, 6. John Hardie, 7. Tim Boys, 8. Elliot Dixon, 9. Scott Cowan, 10. James Wilson, 11. Mark Wells James Paterson, 12. Matt Saunders, 13. Kendrick Lynn, 14. Tony Koonwaiyou, 15. Glen Horton.

Reserves: 16. Bayden Mitchell, 17. Nic Barrett, 18. Kane Thompson, 19. Dion Bates, 20. Nick Annear, 21. Seminar Manu, 22. Pehi Te Whare.

REFEREE: Nathan Pearce (Australia)