ITM Cup Preview: Southland v Wellington

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Friday, October 22, 2010    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Rugby Park, Invercargill, Saturday October 23, 19.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 91 – Southland 24, Wellington 60, drawn 7.

LAST TIME: October 31, 2009 (Wellington) – Wellington 34-21 Southland (semi-final).

LAST TIME AT VENUE: August 22, 2008 – Southland 7-26 Wellington.

MATCH ODDS: NZ TAB (Tuesday): Southland $2.05, Wellington $1.70.

WALKING WOUNDED: Piri Weepu sustained that severe leg fracture and dislocation last week, but he would have been on All Black duty anyway had the accident not occurred. Ma'a Nonu, Alby Mathewson and Hosea Gear are now away with the touring team.


PAST FIVE Southland:
Round 8: Beat Waikato 7-6
Round 9: Beat Auckland 9-6 (RS)
Round 10: Lost to Taranaki 6-23
Round 11: Lost to Canterbury 16-26 (RS)
Round 12: Lost to Bay of Plenty 22-33

PAST FIVE Wellington:
Round 8: Beat Hawke’s Bay 17-13
Round 9: Lost to Canterbury 30-37
Round 10: Lost to Bay of Plenty 24-31
Round 11: Beat North Harbour 52-23
Round 12: Beat Taranaki 49-15

Southland’s season has hit the wall in recent weeks, possibly due to the intense pressure of holding the Ranfurly Shield through a series of nail-biting challenges. For most of the match at Mt maunganui last week, it looked as if the Stags were still trying to recover both physically and mentally that defeat by Canterbury. Having made such a good start to the season, Southland is now highly unlikely to make the top four. Wellington finally played out a full 80 minutes last week and looked very good doing it. They dominated all areas, but the best mirror of how the team played is that six of the seven tries went to backs, who were given good ball to use and the ability to make use of it without forwards cluttering things up.

WHO'S HOT: It’s been a long season for the Southland forwards, who have done a ton of work in every game. None have slackened their efforts, however, as exemplified by Tim Boys and John Hardie, who are still getting through a power of defence. Glen Horton has been sound at the back and dangerous on attack at times, although few opposing teams have given him too much room to move. John Schwalger has been Wellington’s best tight forward all season and he is still in top form, while All Black discard Victor Vito will have a few points to prove to three gentlemen in particular. With the backline necessarily changed around from last week, Lima Sopoaga will have a load on his shoulders as he takes over in the first-five role, but both his general play and goal-kicking have been good for such a young player.

WE THINK: If there’s going to be an upset in the last round, we think it will come at Invercargill. The Stags won’t want to end such a good year with four straight losses, and their loyal fans will be there to urge them on. Wellington has a lot to play for but only a moderate record in Invercargill, and we’re prepared to call it for Southland by five points.

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. Sonny Rangitoheriri, 10. Robbie Robinson, 11. Tony Koonwaiyou. 12. James Wilson, 13. Matt Saunders, 13., 14. Mark Wells, 15. Glen Horton.

Reserves: 16. Brayden Mitchell, 17. Nick Barrett, 18. Alex Ryan, 19. Huia Tamariki, 20. Scott Cowan, 21. Seminar Manu, 22. Dion Bates.

Wellington: 1. John Schwalger, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Neemia Tialata, 4. Jeremy Thrush (capt), 5. Api Naikatini, 6. Faifili Levave, 7. Scott Fuglistaller, 8. Victor Vito, 9. TJ Perenara, 10. Lima Sopoaga, 11. Alapati Leiua, 12. Charlie Ngatai, 13. Tajhon Mailata, 14. Julian Savea, 15. Apoua Stewart.
Replacements: 16. Ged Robinson, 17. Reg Goodes, 18. Brad Shields, 19. Dean Brunsdon, 20. Fa'atonu Fili/Ruki Tipuna, 21. Shaun Treeby, 22. Buxton Popoali'i.

REFEREE: Bryce Lawrence