Preview: Tasman v Waikato

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Thursday, September 4, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Friday 5 September, 6.05pm at Trafalgar Park, Nelson
Played: 7, 2007-2013
Waikato wins: 4 | Tasman wins: 3

Squad update: Coach Kieran Keane admitted that his team was pretty “dented” after a physical match against Auckland, and while some fresh blood has been injected into the team, the side otherwise remains intact – good reward for some solid form from the starting squad.

Prop Tim Perry and Lock Alex Ainley come into the forward pack, replacing Ross Geldenhuys (injury) and Joe Wheeler (benched). Veteran former All Blacks halfback Jimmy Cowan retains the number nine jersey while there are two changes out wide, with James Lowe starting on the left wing, while Robbie Malneek shifts to fullback.

The Mooloo have made four changes, with Josh Hohneck, Brayden Mitchell and Marty Holah coming into the forward pack.

Sacred Heart College product and 21-year-old Jordan Payne is the only change in the backline, with the Chiefs back starting at centre.

Form: Tasman are unbeaten, and if Steven Luatua hadn’t managed to breach the impressive Makos defence in the 60th minute, then the newly promoted side may have been sitting alongside Canterbury on top of the table.

If anything, while Waikato are a side with more history than the fledging Tasman side, the budding rivalry has already tipped towards the freshmen, with the Makos winning 64-28 in the same meeting last year.

The Mooloo have two wins from four outings, and despite the even ledger seem to be on an upward curve after some canny recruitment ensuring there is a lethal edge about this youthful team.

Wins against North Harbour and Wellington were well deserved, but Waikato’s losses to Canterbury and Taranaki will have the troops eager to make a stand against a fellow Premiership outfit.

Last match: Tasman 64 Waikato 28, 02.10.13 in Nelson (ITMC)

Last Waikato win: Waikato 20 Tasman 19, 27.09.12 in Hamilton (ITMC)

Biggest Waikato score: 35 (35-6), 29.07.11 in Hamilton (ITMC)

Biggest Tasman score: 64 (64-28), 02.10.13 in Nelson (ITMC)

Biggest differential: Tasman by 36 (64-28), 02.10.13 in Nelson (ITMC)

Key players: Quentin MacDonald and Tim Perry have been the foundation of an underrated pack that has been competitive throughout, even against the illustrious Canterbury and Taranaki forward units.

Yet the Makos have unashamedly relied on the boot of Marty Banks, who has continued his ITM Cup reputation of being an absolute metronome.

Marty Holah, playing his 87th game for Waikato, will lead a pack that cannot even compile 70 caps between the remaining seven players.

Damian McKenzie continues to hone his craft at first five-eighth, while Joe Webber, Anton Lienert-Brown and captain Brad Weber form a talented if not slightly raw attacking backline.