Southland's best chance is at home

Thursday, August 18, 2005    

One of those defeats occurred in the corresponding match in Invercargill two years ago when Southland surprised their visitors 24-13.

Southland’s other victory was also achieved in Invercargill, 20 years ago, and had wide-ranging ramifications. The 13-10 success, which came two weeks before the end of the competition, helped to consign the Mooloo men to relegation at the conclusion of that year’s NPC.

Sunday’s match promises to be no easier, with the southerners gaining a lot of confidence even though three late Canterbury tries condemned the side to a pointless start to the new campaign, in terms of the competition table.

Waikato opened its account for the competition by dispatching Taranaki, but coach Warren Gatland knows another rugged afternoon is in store in the Deep South.

“They were impressive against Canterbury and the final score did them no justice,” Gatland said of Southland. “I know they’ve got a few new players in there so they should only be better for that game. Playing at home, they’re going to be tough to beat.”

Gatland noted that his side grew in confidence as its opening game of the competition progressed, being especially pleased with the performance of his forwards, matching up strongly as they did against a Taranaki pack containing some experienced provincial performers.

Waikato was expecting to have powerful prop Philemon Toleafoa available to make his NPC debut, while All Blacks Sione Lauaki, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Marty Holah have also been released to the team for the weekend.

Kick-off: Sunday 21 August at 2.35pm
Referee: Gary Wise (Hawke’s Bay)
TAB odds: Southland $6.25, Waikato $1.10