ITM Cup Preview: Auckland v Otago
Saturday, October 16, 2010 Sportal.co.nz Getty Images
HEAD TO HEAD: Played 78 – Auckland 51, Otago 19, drawn 8.
LAST TIME: September 6, 2009 (Dunedin) – Otago 18-22 Auckland.
LAST TIME AT VENUE: September 21, 2007 – Auckland 32-21 Otago.
WALKING WOUNDED: John Afoa did enough for Auckland B to earn a recall this week, but starts at prop rather than hooker. Jerome Kaino is overseas on promotional work and is replaced by Onosai'i Auva’a, Isaia Toeava gets a start and both Brent Ward and Toby Morland get recalled to the run-on XV. Josh Townsend gives way to Tom Donnelly for Otago, while Paul Grant and Ryan Shortland take over from Charlie O'Connell and Chris Samll respectively. All three changes were optional.
PAST FIVE Auckland:
Round 7: Beat Wellington 21-15
Round 8: Beat Manawatu 32-6
Round 9: Lost to Southland 6-9 (RS)
Round 10: Drew with Hawke's Bay 34-34
Round 11: Beat Counties-Manukau 37-13
PAST FIVE Otago:
Round 7: Beat Tasman 13-11
Round 8: Lost to Northland 8-13
Round 9: Lost to Bay of Plenty 30-40
Round 10: Lost to Canterbury 20-35
Round 11: Lost to Waikato 15-41
Auckland is looking good for a playoff spot, currently sitting fourth and with the teams in 12th and 14th to go. They start with Otago, the bottom side, on a ground where Otago has not won in 34 years and has found some extraordinary ways to lose games it apparently had in the bag. Auckland has been steadily ticking over and in the last couple of weeks, aided by a few All Blacks, has found its scoring touch – something other teams will not be happy about. Otago has nothing to be happy about, except that its fate is in its own hands when Manawatu comes south next week; if the Dark Blues win that one, they'll power up to 13th. Really, this is a season best chucked in the bin for Otago and only to be talked about when parents want to scare their children into behaving.
WHO'S HOT: Daniel Braid is making a late rails run for an All Black spot, aided by unusually fruitful try-scoring feats. For a guy who doesn't normally score tries in bunches, back-to-back doubles is a bit over the speed limit. Joe Rokocoko showed the benefit of some game time with a strong effort last week, while Jerome Kaino also looked better for the run. Otago battled away – again – but came up short at Hamilton. Skipper Alando Soakai hasn’t stopped trying but must be running out of ideas and will be pleased the season is almost over. Sean Romans was good in patches and scored a nice try, but in the last 25 minutes it was one-way traffic.
WE THINK: If Auckland doesn't win this one by plenty, they only have themselves to blame. There is no way Otago should stay within 20 points of the home side, who should also take a bonus point without too much trouble..
Auckland: 1. Charlie Faumuina, 2. Ash Dixon, 3. John Afoa, 4. Kurtis Haiu, 5. Andrew van der Heijden, 6. Onosai’i Auva’a, 7. Daniel Braid (captain), 8. Peter Saili, 9. Toby Morland, 10. Gareth Anscombe, 11. Joe Rokocoko, 12. Benson Stanley, 13. Isaia Toeava, 14. Dave Thomas, 15. Brent Ward.
Reserves: 16. Tom McCartney, 17. Angus Ta'avao, 18. Liaki Moli, 19. Sean Polwart, 20. Brenton Helleur, 21. Matt Berquist, 22. Winston Stanley.
Otago: 1. Sam Hibbard, 2. Peter Mirrielees, 3. Halani Aulika, 4. Tom
Donnelly, 5. Hayden Triggs, 6. Hoani Matenga, 7. Alando Soakai (captain), 8. Paul Grant, 9. Sean Romans, 10. Chris Noakes, 11. Fetu'u Vainikolo, 12. Glenn Dickson, 13. Josh Tatupu, 14. Ryan Shortland, 15. Joe Hill.
Reserves: 16. Wyatt McKay, 17. Scott Manson, 18. Seko Kalou, 19. Brad Cameron, 20. Johnny Legg, 21. Paula Kinikinilau, 22. Andrew
REFEREE: Kane McBride