Preview: Hawke's Bay v Manawatu

Friday, August 16, 2013    

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 96; Manawatu 31 wins, Hawke's Bay 62, drawn 3.
LAST TIME: October 6, 2012 (Palmerston North) – Manawatu 20-7 Hawke's Bay.

MISSING IN ACTION: Hawke's Bay are, of course, without fullback All Black Israel Dagg as the world champions prepare to defend the Investec Rugby Championship in Sydney. Of course the other notable exclusion is that of Hika Elliot, who wasn't offered a contract for fear of him becoming an All Black and not featuring much for the province. Elliot has since been contracted to Counties Manukau.

Manawatu have two All Blacks away on international duty in Aaron Smith and Aaron Cruden, but the province has picked up a fellow international from the Northern Hemisphere. Canadian Hubert Buydens will start at prop while Force halfback Nic Stirkazer will be looking for quick ball at halfback.

FORM: Both sides have had relatively good pre-season results. Hawke's Bay put together a promising performance against Auckland that saw them score four tries in a 33-32 win. In 2012, the team was guilty of aiming too high in their return to the Premiership and were subsequently relegated at the end of the season.

A change in philosophy from coaches Craig Philpott and Danny Lee have made the 2011 ITM Cup Championship victors take a 'one game at a time' approach, something that has struck a chord with the players.

As for Manawatu, 2012 was a season to forget. Three wins from 10 saw them finish in sixth position in the seven-team Championship, not good enough for a side that finished atop the competition in 2011.

They've gone some way to amending that horror run with a tight 24-22 win over Bay of Plenty in pre-season, if that is to count for anything.

First and foremost, expect plenty of points in this encounter.

Attack is the first priority from these two sides, with the last three encounters totalling 147 points between them. It's hard to see who would prevail in this one, but Hawke's Bay's experienced backline featuring halfback Alby Mathewson, wing Zac Guildford and New Zealand Sevens star Gillies Kaka should do the job. Hawke's Bay by 10

Hawke's Bay:
1. Brendon Edmonds, 2. Ash Dixon, 3. Max Lahiff, 4. Michael Allardice, 5. Mark Abbott, 6. Michael Coman (c), 7. Brendon O'Connor, 8. Mark Atkins, 9. Alby Mathewson, 10. Ihaia West, 11. Zac Guildford, 12. Adam Bradley, 13. Richard Buckman, 14. Telusa Veainu, 15. Gillies Kaka.

Substitutes: 16. Ged Robinson/Jesse MacDonald, 17. Jody Allen, 18. Johan Schoonbee, 19. Karl Lowe, 20. Trent Boswell-Wakefield, 21. Chris Eaton, 22. Regis Lespinas.

1. Hubert Buydens, 2. Rob Foreman, 3. Ma'afu Fia, 4. Fraser Stone, 5. Michael Fitzgerald, 6. Nick Crosswell, 7. Callum Gibbins, 8. Antonio Kirikiri, 9. Nic Stirkazer, 10. Jade Te Rure, 11. Tomasi Cama, 12. Tevita Taufu'i, 13. Jason Emery, 14. Nehe Milner-Skudder, 15. Lewis Marshall.

Substitutes: 16. Bryn Templeman, 17. Chris Eve, 18. Hamish Gosling, 19. Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 20. Papa Wharewera, 21. Nate George, 22. Newton Tudreu.