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Preview: Canterbury v Southland

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Friday, July 22, 2011    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Rugby Park, Christchurch, Saturday July 23 @1435

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 99; Canterbury 70 wins, Southland 26, drawn 3.

LAST TIME: October 9, 2010 (Invercargill, RS) – Southland 16-26 Canterbury.

WALKING WOUNDED: Canterbury lost Colin Slade to the All Blacks but Rob Penney has brought three Crusaders regulars – Goerge Whitelock, who resumes the captaincy, Matt Todd and Sean Maitland – into the side. Tom Taylor moves into first-five in Slade's absence. Prop Joe Moody, who suffered a nasty hand injury, has been ruled out for an unspecified time. After a lot of Southland's big men had a rest against Hawke's Bay they have all been reintroduced for this match and this looks very much like the Southland side of the past couple of years. The matchday 23 is the same as at Napier, but all the familiar faces are back in their familiar places.

FORM:
Canterbury:
Round 1: beat Auckland 40-33 (a)

Southland:
Round 1: lost to Waikato 9-19 (h)
Round 2: lost to Hawke's Bay 18-29 (a)

Canterbury looked good throughout and very good in patches as it despatched Auckland in the season opener, with the best rugby being played in the middle 40 minutes of the match. During that spell Canterbury was all class, with the forwards doing the hard work and the backs using every scrap of possession. Perhaps most impressive was the slick passing and offloading, which allowed the Canterbury runners to hit gaps and make serious yards against what is normally a tight Auckland defence. Rob Penney must have been quietly pleased as he watched several of his new men make impressive starts to their careers at this level. Southland, with most of the regular tight five on the bench, still went well enough up front against Hawke's Bay but a couple of defensive lapses cost tries and the Stags were heavily punished off the tee; five own-half penalties resulted in 15 points for Andrew Horrell and the winning of the match for his team. Southland did score two tries of its own but still seems to lack the real top-end speed of some other sides, which is something that simply has to be planned around. Everyone knows the forwards are the team's strength, and how they perform will be vitally important in the Shield match.

WHO'S HOT: Nasi Manu had one of his most impressive first-class games at Eden Park, often doing major damage with his powerful runs and more with some clever offloading. He wasn't absent on defence, either, in a strong all-round match. Tom Taylor got a lot of attention for a highly impressive debut and kicked 20 points (8 from 10) off the tee, but the best part of his game was his excellent basic skill range and some quality option-taking. Ryan Crotty ran at the gaps beautifully and made a couple of try-scoring breaks as well as threatening on many other occasions. He, too, played one of his best games in a while. Southland will always look to its pack and Jamie Mackintosh, who has really developed in the last 12 months, will be leading from the front and a powerful figure in the hard stuff. Now 26 years old and with a wealth of experience, he is moving back into the list of top props around the country. John Hardie was busy at Napier and, as ever, never far from the ball. How he gets on at the breakdown will be an important part of Southland's effort. Experienced Kendrick Lynn has a big job, marshalling the defence against the strong Canterbury midfield, and it's normally something he does well. He's also a dangerous attacker and a player who needs careful watching.

WE THINK: It's been a while since this could be said, but these teams have dominated Shield rugby in the last couple of years. Canterbury long ago identified this as a dangerous challenge and will be ready for the Stags, who might just battle to contain a good home back division. It's hard to see the Shield moving on ... but everyone said that two years ago. Still, Canterbury by 10 looks the go.

TEAMS:

Canterbury: 1. Paea Fa'anunu, 2. Paul Ngauamo, 3. Andrew Olorenshaw, 4. Ash Parker, 5. Luke Romano, 6. George Whitelock (capt), 7. Matt Todd, 8. Nasi Manu, 9. Willi Heinz, 10. Tom Taylor, 11. Patrick Osborne, 12. Ryan Crotty, 13. Robbie Fruean, 14. Telusa Veainu, 15. Sean Maitland.

Reserves: 16. Ben Funnell, 17. Nepo Laulala, 18. Reuben Thorne, 19. Brendon O'Connor, 20. Mark Swanepoel, 21. Tyler Bleyendaal, 22. Johnny McNicholl, 23. Sam Cottam.


Southland: 1. Jamie Mackintosh (capt), 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. Tim Cornforth, 12. Matt Saunders, 13. Kendrick Lynn, 14. Glen Horton, 15. Robbie Robinson.

Reserves: 16. David Hall, 17. Nick Barrett, 18. Ben Nally, 19. Kaleni Taituli, 20. Sonny Rangitohereri, 21. Scott Eade, 22. James Lew or Tony Koonwaiyou, 23. Michael Peterson.



REFEREE: Jonathan White