Preview: Northland v Southland


Saturday, August 24, 2013    Gettys

LAST TIME: Southland 16 def Northland 12, Round 10, 2012 at Invercargill.

WALKING WOUNDED: Chiefs fullback Robbie Robinson returns to bolster the Stags, while All Blacks Sevens representative Gareth Williams-Spiers is set to make his starting debut on the wing.

Southland have also re-jigged their loose trio with Hale T-Pole shifting to No 8, which makes way for Tim Boys to slot in on the blindside. Elliott Dixon has been lost to suspension for one week.

Meanwhile, one of rugby's most exciting players in history is set to make his comeback for the Taniwha. Wing Rupeni Cacau passed a fitness test during the week and is set to link with All Black Rene Ranger out wide.

FORM: Northland will be desperate after missing out on Ranfurly Shield glory last week. The men from Toll Stadium fought tooth and nail, and almost won, but were undone by basic errors as Waikato hung on to the precious Log o' Wood with a 31-22 win.

Meanwhile, Southland suffered from poor execution, and an inability to score tries, when they took on Tasman last week.

Trailing by 10 points for much of the second half, the Stags were still very much in the hunt but could not turn things around much to the disappointment of their home crowd, eventually going down 25-15.

WE THINK: The two sides play completely different styles, so the issue here is whether Southland can control the tempo.

That doesn't necessarily mean the game will be slow - in fact, the Stags do things quickly when they're firing - but Northland definitely has the more dangerous backline and if they're allowed room to run they'll do damage.

The combination of Rene and Rupeni is a match that rugby aficionados could have only dreamed about until now. We have to tip them to wreak havoc in this one.

Northland by seven.