Preview: Otago v Bay of Plenty

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Saturday, August 17, 2013    Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 32; Otago 21, Bay of Plenty 11
LAST TIME: 30 August, 2012 (Rotorua) – Bay of Plenty 31-19 Otago

MISSING IN ACTION: With Ben Smith away on All Black duty it would seem the hosts are set for a big win. The utility shouldn't feature too much for the southerners, but captain Paul Grant has already spoken about the inspiration Smith has provided for the rest of the squad.

As for Bay of Plenty, the absence of Tanerau Latimer could hurt the proud province. They have, however, nabbed Beau Robinson from the Queensland Reds to bolster their loose forwards.

FORM: A reinvigorated Otago should feel confident after a successful 2012 ITM Cup Championship campaign. While they might not have come up trumps when it mattered most, the fact the province had struck financial difficulty and the players were able to unite and play on spoke volumes of the hallowed southern spirit most Kiwis are accustomed to.

Their last pre-season match, a 13-26 defeat to Tasman, will have given the Otago players the reminder that anyone has the chance to win on the day.

As always, pre-season form doesn't necessarily correlate with regular season form. In Bay of Plenty's case, they used the pre-season to introduce their newer players into the systems required at ITM Cup level.

As a result were they were subject to a tough 22-47 loss to Counties Manukau and a disappointing 22-24 loss to Manawatu.

Expect plenty of bumps and bruises after this one. History shows contests between these two blue-and-yellow sides always produce their fair share of big hits and pints to boot.

Expect Otago's experienced backline to shine on the dry surface and begin their campaign with a home win. Otago by 10

1. Craig Millar, 2. Liam Coltman, 3. Scott Manson, 4. Tom Donnelly, 5. Tom Franklin, 6. Gareth Evans, 7. Lee Allan, 8. Paul Grant (Capt), 9. Fumiaki Tanaka, 10. Hayden Parker, 11. Buxton Popoali’i, 12. Peter Breen, 13. Michael Collins, 14. Keiran Moffat, 15. Tony Ensor.

Substitutes: 16. Sam Anderson-Heather, 17. Aki Seiuli, 18. Charlie O'Connell, 19. TJ Ioane, 20. Willis Scott, 21. Josh Renton, 22. Fa'asiu Fuatai.

Bay of Plenty:
1. Kane Hames, 2. Joe Royal, 3. Josh Hohneck, 4. Tim Bond, 5. Josh Sole, 6. Carl Axtens, 7. Beau Robinson 8. Joe Tupe, 9. Samisoni Fisilau, 10. Willie Ripia, 11. Kimami Sitauti 12. Brett Mather, 13. Kendrick Lynn, 14. Tino Nemani, 15. Steve Honey.

Susbtitutes: 16. Albert Anae, 17. Pingi Tala'apitaga, 18. Beau Williams, 19. Matt Clutterbuck, 20. Josh Hall, 21. Sam Beard, 22. Dave Thomas.