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ITM Cup Preview: Southland v Canterbury

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Friday, October 8, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

It is the toughest challenge for Southland to date.

VENUE & TIME: Rugby Park, Invercargill, Saturday October 9, 19.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 98 – Southland 26, Canterbury 69, drawn 3.

LAST TIME: October 22, 2009 (Christchurch) – Canterbury 3-9 Southland.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: October 3, 2008 – Southland 6-25 Canterbury.

MATCH ODDS: NZ TAB (Tuesday): Southland $2.50, Canterbury $1.50.

WALKING WOUNDED: Two Southlanders are returning from long-term injuries: James Wilson has been out since round two and starts at second-five, while David Hall’s return as reserve hooker marks the end of a cycle that began when he blew his knee in the corresponding match a year ago. James Paterson’s season-ending injury sees Tony Koonwaiyou move to the wing. Canterbury has Peter Borlase back for this match, but lost skipper George Whitelock to a knee problem. Corey Flynn was set to go after recovering from a sternum injury, then tore a calf at training and that will probably end his domestic season. Andy Ellis takes over the captaincy, but the other changes to Canterbury were all optional. This includes the placing of All Black lock Sam Whitelock on the side of the scrum, with Matt Todd taking over at openside.

FORM:

PAST FIVE Southland:
Round 6: Lost to Northland 22-33
Round 7: Beat North Harbour 47-21 (RS)
Round 8: Beat Waikato 7-6
Round 9: Beat Auckland 9-6 (RS)
Round 10: Lost to Taranaki 6-23

PAST FIVE Canterbury:
Round 6: Beat Bay of Plenty 28-9
Round 7: Beat Northland 27-23
Round 8: Lost to Taranaki 20-31
Round 9: Beat Wellington 37-30
Round 10: Beat Otago 35-20

For the third time this season Southland goes into a 1 v 2 Shield challenge and this one promises to be the hardest of all. The Stags may have staggered last week but it looked as if they were still trying to get the bruises from the Auckland game out of their systems and the error count was three normal games’ worth. Don’t expect Southland to turn in two in a row like that, especially in front of a big home crowd with the Shield on the line. If nothing else the Stags have been brutes on defence with the Log at stake, giving up only three tries in seven matches in this reign. Canterbury, on the other hand, has not been held below 20 points by anyone this season and is the most dangerous team with ball in hand going around the ITM Cup. There have been many matches where they haven’t played all that well, but still manage to create enough chances to have grabbed a couple of undeserved wins. The one at Dunedin wasn’t one of those; Canterbury was always in control and the five points were fully merited.

WHO'S HOT: Southland’s vastly experienced front row will be tasked with setting the platform and former Canterbury man Chris King will look to continue his impressive campaign at tighthead prop. He may not be flashy, but there are few better in the ITM Cup. Tim Boys is another with a big job on his hands, as the last thing Southland wants is to find Canterbury getting in behind the defence; Boys often fills those little spaces that could become big gaps in a less-organised defence. Jimmy Cowan looked short of a gallop last week but the run will have done him the world of good and he, too, will want to be at his very best in this one. Matt Todd has turned in a good season to date and the loss of George Whitelock won’t hurt Canterbury badly with Todd available to fill the No 7 shirt. Colin Slade may find he’s required to play a position game a bit more this week, which he’s well capable of doing, but he will normally look to unleash his backs as first option. Sonny Bill Williams really opened up on his way to a fine individual try last week – it was the first time he looked as if he was going flat out so far – and he looked a lot more dangerous with the greater freedom on offer at centre.

WE THINK: Revenge for last year, desire to keep the Log in Invercargill, top place in the championship; you name it, there are cases to be made for either side. Tipping the Shield to move on is always a risky business but Canterbury is obviously a big chance but then again, nobody gave Southland any chance at all a year ago. And just on cue the long-range forecast includes rain, wind and a chill factor of 4o on Saturday night – does that sound like Stags by three?

TEAMS:

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

Reserves: 16. David Hall, 17. Nick Barrett, 18. Alex Ryan, 19. Hua Tamariki, 20. Scott Cowan, 21. Seminar Manu, 22. Pehi Te Whare.

Canterbury: 1. Wyatt Crockett, 2. Steve Fualau, 3. Peter Borlase, 4. Luke Romano, 5. Isaac Ross, 6. Sam Whitelock, 7. Matt Todd, 8. Nasi Manu, 9. Andy Ellis (captain), 10. Colin Slade, 11. Telusa Veainu, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 13. Robbie Fruean, 14. Tu Umaga-Marshall, 15. Sean Maitland.

Reserves: 16. Paul Ngauamo, 17. Andrew Olorenshaw, 18. Ash Parker, 19. Brendon O’Connor, 20. Willi Heinz, 21. Stephen Brett, 22. Ryan Crotty.

REFEREE: Chris Pollock