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ITM Cup Preview: Otago v Hawke's Bay

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Saturday, September 4, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Carisbrook, Dunedin, Sunday September 5, 16.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 48 – Otago 32, Hawke's Bay 15, drawn 1.

LAST TIME: April 28, 2009 (Napier) – Hawke's Bay 32-10 Otago.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: April 28, 2008 – Otago 10-19 Hawke's Bay.

MATCH ODDS: NZ TAB (Tuesday): Otago $1.80, Hawke's Bay $1.95.

WALKING WOUNDED: Unavailable for consideration Otago were Eben Joubert (shoulder), Chris Noakes (ankle), Jason Macdonald (Achilles tendon), Sam Anderson-Heather (leg), Ben Nolan (knee) and Keith Cameron (shoulder). Meanwhile, Hawke's Bay has suffered a blow with a hamstring recurrence preventing Karl Lowe from playing. Luke Rooney, Kaas Lealamanua and Andrew Horrell are all still unavailable due to injuries.

FORM:

PAST FIVE:
Otago
Round 1: Lost to Counties-Manukau 13-29
Round 2: Lost to Southland 12-16 (RS)
Round 3: Lost to Wellington 22-35
Round 4: Lost to North Harbour 23-35
Round 5: Lost to Taranaki 15-25

PAST FIVE:
Hawke's Bay
Round 1: Drew with Canterbury 23-23
Round 2: Lost to Bay of Plenty 11-30
Round 3: Lost to Tasman 7-21
Round 4: Lost to Southland 20-23
Round 5: Beat Manawatu 17-9

As you'd expect from two teams with one win between them, neither side has much to get excited about at the moment. Otago had a good 20 minutes against Taranaki last week but the Dark Blues are consistently coming up 10-15 points short, which suggests they have not been in the hunt too often in 2010. They gave up some soft tries last week, which allowed Taranaki to skip clear early in the match and the lost ground was always going to be too much to make up. Hawke's Bay finally got a win on the board after grinding Manawatu down last Sunday, but it should have been much easier than it was. The Magpies' pack dominated all areas, winning territory and possession by significant margins, but the backline simply couldn't get it together and movement after movement died just as things were starting to look promising. After three ordinary performances the win was a relief, but there's still an awful lot for Peter Russell and the team top work on.

WHO'S HOT: Kees Meeuws and Adam Thomson are giving it plenty in the Otago pack, but the forward play overall offers only mixed results. At times the eight plays like one of the fabled Otago packs of old but more often the effort can be spasmodic. The Otago backline, like its Hawke's Bay counterpart, just hasn't clicked this year and dangerous attackers in Ben Smith and Josh Tatupu are not getting many chances to shine. Hawke's Bay has almost the same problems as Otago; nobody could fault the effort of Hikawera Elliot or Michael Johnson but there are still moments when everything stalls up front. One wonders if Jason Shoemark would not be better employed at centre, where he has played well for several seasons, as he looks nothing like the same player one place closer to the scrum, and his reliable combination with Zac Guildford could then be restored.

WE THINK: This selection is more based on who can rise above mediocrity for longer than any compelling form, and we think Hawke's Bay has shown a little more promise in its two most recent outings. That said, style will be left to fend for itself on Sunday and we think the Magpies will manage a win but by five to ten points only.

TEAMS:

Otago: 1. Kees Meeuws, 2. Liam Coltman, 3. Halani Aulika, 4. Hoani Matenga, 5. Hayden Triggs, 6. Brad Cameron, 7. Alando Soakai (captain), 8. Adam Thomson, 9. Sean Romans, 10. Glenn Dickson, 11. Ryan Shortland, 12. Andrew Parata, 13. Josh Tatupu, 14. Joe Hill, 15. Ben Smith.

Reserves: 16. Wyatt McKay, 17. Sam Hibbard, 18. Josh Townsend, 19. Charlie O'Connell, 20. Johnny Legg, 21. Hayden Parker, 22. Chris Small.

Hawke's Bay: 1. Anthony Perenise, 2. Hikawera Elliot, 3. Clint Newland, 4. Bryn Evans, 5. Ross Kennedy, 6. Mike Coman, 7. Trent Boswell-Wakefield, 8. Grant Webb, 9. Chris Eaton, 10. Daniel Kirkpatrick, 11. Zac Guildford, 12. Jason Shoemark (captain), 13. Richard Buckman, 14. Gillies Kaka, 15. Mike Jackman.

Reserves: 16. Eugene Smith, 17. Josh Keys, 18. Leighton Price, 19. Michael Johnson, 20. Kahn Fotuali'i, 21. Ryan McLeodl, 22. Sinoti Sinoti.

REFEREE: James McPhail