Preview: Manawatu v Bay of Plenty

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Wednesday 3 September, 7.35pm at FMG Stadium, Palmerston North
Played: 28, 1951-2010 (DNP 2011/12/13)
Manawatu wins: 9 | Bay of Plenty wins: 17 | Draws: 2

Squad update: Manawatu’s giant killing exploits over Wellington has meant that the team remains largely intact for this clash.

Halfback Jamie Booth retains his spot after performing well against the Lions, and his partnership with sharpshooting first five-eighth Otere Black, who kicked six from seven last week, will be key.

Bay of Plenty, under pressure without a victory so far in 2014, had little to be enthusiastic about with just one Dan Hollinshead penalty to show for their efforts against Taranaki last week.

Head coach Kevin Schuler is without Highlanders prop Kane Hames, and requires an urgent repair job on his team’s defence, after they have conceded 136 points in three matches.

Form: Manawatu looked the goods against Wellington, and the 27-21 victory over their local rivals has the Turbos well placed in the Championship so far.

However the hosts play Counties-Manukau in just four days’ time, so coach Jason O’Halloran will be wary of his squad management and will likely look to the bench early.

The Steamers, who like Manawatu have a short turnaround and play North Harbour in four days’ time, will look to history for comfort, with Bay of Plenty winning the last match between the sides 41-13, although that was back in 2010.

Last match: Bay of Plenty 41 Manawatu 13, 09.09.10 in Mt Maunganui (ITMC)

Last Manawatu win: Manawatu 30 Bay of Plenty 18, 19.08.07 in Palmerston North (ANZC)

Biggest Bay of Plenty score: 54 (54-45), 18.09.93 in Rotorua (NPC)

Biggest Manawatu score: 54 (54-23), 31.08.96 in Palmerston North (NPC)

Biggest differential: Manawatu by 46 (49-3), 21.08.82 in Palmerston North (NPC)

Key players: Manawatu will rely on their exciting halves pairing of Black and Booth, who controlled the game well against Wellington and brought back memories for Turbos fans of the exciting pairing of Aaron Smith and Aaron Cruden – both of whom are now All Blacks.

Bay of Plenty need a result, and captain Culum Retallick, now with over 70 matches for the Steamers, will need to draw on all of his experience.

Yet the Steamers need to throw caution to the wind if they are to get something out of this one, and getting the ball out wide to the likes of Tino Nemani and Junior Tofa Va’a will be a priority.