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Preview: Bay of Plenty v Southland

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

LAST TIME: Southland 17 lost to Bay of Plenty 29, Invercargill 2011

WALKING WOUNDED: Southland's changes have been forced by a combination of rotation, reward and punishment. An interesting feature is the choice of Scott Eade as the starting halfback despite having played nearly all of his provincial rugby at first five-eighths.

Meanwhile, Bay of Plenty have made six personnel changes with Tanerau Latimer returning to the openside at the expense of Beau Robinson. Tim Bond replaces the experienced lock Culum Retallick while Nick Evemy takes over from Sam Beard in the midfield.

FORM: Bay of Plenty looked to have found their winning formula when they beat Hawke's Bay in round two, however a string of games against the country's biggest union saw them slump to a three-match losing streak.

It took Auckland almost an hour to run away with the match, while Canterbury and Wellington blitzed the men from Bay Park, who conceded a combined total of 113 points in the process.

It hasn't been pretty for David Henderson and his Stags, either. A stunning upset over Waikato looked to be the watershed moment for them but in Manawatu last week they returned to the error-riddled ways that saw them that them drop their first three.

Up front is where they lacked, with the Turbos making easy metres around the fringes. It is hoped the return of captain Jamie Makintosh will restore a hard edge in that department.

WE THINK: The battle of the wooden-spooners from their respective divisions. This one is hardly reads as the game of the round. However, both have showed an ability to turn on the points when they get it right.

Bay of Plenty have a tendency to rely on forwards Joe Tupe and Latimer to lead the pack the through the middle. We think Southland will match them in the tight, especially with the absence of Retallick, and will have an advantage with their smaller men out wide.

The likes of Bryan Milne and Willis Halaholo found gaps to exploit against Manawatu but a lack of support saw their good work undone by turnovers.

Robbie Robinson is still yet to make his presence felt and if he does get going it will be all on at Bay Park.

Unfortunately there will be plenty of errors in this one and it will be tight. We're tipping in Southland's favour so you can probably expect a low-scoring affair.

If they can assert their dominance up front early and maintain it, Southland by six.


TEAMS

Bay of Plenty1. Albert Anae, 2.Nathan Harris, 3.Pingi Tala'apitaga, 4.Johan Bardoul, 5. Tim Bond, 6.Joe Tupe, 7.Tanerau Latimer, 8.Carl Axtens, 9.Samisoni Fisilau, 10.Willie Ripia, 11.Kimami Sitauti, 12.Nick Evemy, 13.Kenny Lynn, 14. Dave Thomas, 15.Steve Honey.

Reserves: 16.Joe Royal, 17. Kane Harris, 18. Josh Sole, 19. Kieran Black, 20. Toma TeAihe, 21. Tino Nemani, 22. Elliott Hagen.

Southland:1.Jamie Mackintosh, 2.Talemaitoga Tuapati, 3.Juan Koen, 4.Josh Bekhuis, 5.Hale T-Pole, 6.Naulia Dawai, 7.John Hardie, 8.Elliot Dixon, 9.Scott Eade, 10.Marty McKenzie, 11.Gareth Williams-Spiers, 12.Calvary Fonoti, 13.Willis Halaholo, 14.Bryan Milne, 15.Robbie Robinson.

Replacements: 16. David Hall, 17.Nick Barrett, 18.Michael Fatialofa, 19.Tim Boys, 20.Tayler Adams, 21.Cardiff Vaega, 22.Tim Cornforth.