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Preview: Counties Manukau v Tasman

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Thursday, August 29, 2013    Sportal.co.nz    Gettys

LAST TIME: October 9, 2012 - Tasman 28 def Counties Manukau 19 at Pukekohe

WALKING WOUNDED: Steelers coach Tana Umaga has made two personnel changes to his starting lineup. Chiefs centre Bundee Aki rises from the bench to don the No 12 jersey, while Tony Pulu replaces Ahsee Tuala on the wing.

Meanwhile, Tasman have restored Sila Puafisi to tighthead prop while Tom Marshall switches to second-five to make way for debutant Marty Banks at fullback.

FORM: Counties were welcomed to the Premiership with a belting by Wellington in round one.

It was rude awakening for the newly promoted side, who were hit with injury blows to veterans Mahonri Schwalger and Tim Nanai-Williams before their season even started.

However, last week’s 44-14 thumping of Championship battlers North Harbour has given them confidence that a semi-final spot is still on the cards if they continue to secure maximum points from their crossover games.

Tasman, on the other hand, started well against Southland, winning 25-15, but were outclassed by defending NPC champions Canterbury last week.

They were never really in that match but many will laud their defence for holding the red-and-blacks to just three tries

WE THINK: Tasman caught Counties during a flat patch at the business end of last season and were able to sneak into the semi-finals.

Memories of that 28-19 defeat are still fresh and Umaga will have his men primed to make a statement in this one.

Halai is the danger man. After attending two All Blacks training camps he has become even more destructive, proven by two stunning tries in Albany last week.

We expect the southern men to put up a fight but, in reality, the loss of strike weapons Peter Betham, Robbie Malneek and Jeremy Sua is going to cost them not just in this game but throughout the season.

Counties by 10.

TEAMS:
Counties Manukau: 1. Sam Aiono, 2. Hika Elliot, 3. Jarrod Firth, 4.Ronald Raaymakers, 5. Jimmy Tupou, 6. Adam Cathcart, 7. Maama Vaipulu, 8. Fritz Lee (c), 9. Augustine Pulu, 10. Baden Kerr, 11. Tony Pulu, 12. Bundee Aki, 13. Rey Lee-Lo, 14. Frank Halai, 15. Sherwin Stowers.

Reserves: 16. Michael Lea, 17.Simon Lemalu , 18. Johnny Kawau, 19.Sean Reidy , 20. Kane Hancy, 21.Sam Vaka 22.Ahsee Tuala.

Tasman: 1. Tim Perry, 2. Quentin MacDonald, 3. Sila Puafisi, 4. Alex Ainley, 5. Joe Wheeler, 6. Liam Squire, 7. Shane Christie (c), 8. Tevita Koloamatangi, 9. Mark Swanepoel, 10. Hayden Cripps, 11. James Lowe, 12. Tom Marshall, 13. Kieron Fonotia, 14. Bryce Heem, 15. Marty Banks.

Reserves: 16. Francis Smith, 17. Siua Halanukonuka, 18. Tevita Cavubati, 19. Gary Redmond, 20. Kaide Whiting, 21. Billy Guyton, 22. Mitchell Scott.