Preview: Taranaki v Southland

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Saturday, September 6, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Meanwhile Southland, who lost to Otago in a three try a piece thriller, could move to the top of the ITM Cup Championship table.

Saturday 6 September, 4.35pm at Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
Played: 53, 1899-2013
Taranaki wins: 32 | Southland wins: 20 | Draws: 1

Squad update: After Taranaki were so impressive with a 41-3 win over Bay of Plenty, and coach Colin Cooper has opted for stability.

Jamison Gibson-Park started at halfback ahead of Chris Smylie, while the other change occurs up front, with Iopu Iopu-Aso coming into the side at blindside flanker.

The Stags have also opted for stability, with the likes of Jamie MacKintosh, Josh Bekhuis, Tim Boys, Elliot Dixon and John Hardie forming a fearsome forward combination.

Lima Sopoaga continues to run the cutter from first five eighth, forming a combination with Scott Eade at halfback.

Form: The Amber and Blacks drew with Counties and lost to Hawke’s Bay, but since then have thumped Waikato and the Steamers.

They are also unbeaten in the rivalry since 2009, although the last clash in Invercargill saw Taranaki sneak away with a one-point win.

The Stags loss to Otago would have stung, and they have an opportunity to make a statement against a Premiership team. It is also the start of a tough run, with Southland hosting Tasman before a four day turnaround before facing Manawatu.

Last match: Taranaki 15 Southland 14, 31.08.13 in Invercargill (ITMC)

Last Southland win: Southland 29 Taranaki 13, 16.10.09 in Invercargill (ANZC)

Biggest Taranaki score: 74 (74-43), 13.09.97 in New Plymouth (NPC)

Biggest Southland score: 43 (43-74), 13.09.97 in New Plymouth (NPC)

Biggest differential: Taranaki by 37 (49-12), 06.08.00 in New Plymouth (NPC)

Key players: Marty McKenzie has emerged as one of the finds of the 2014 ITM Cup, scoring 16 points last week.

However as it has been throughout history, it has been the Taranaki forwards that have lifted the team. Blade Thomson, James Broadhurst and Angus Ta’avao have been bullocking sights in the loose.

The Stags little known new outside backs in the form of Junior Ngaluafe, Lolo loco and Cardiff Vaega are exciting, but the side has only scored a paltry seven tries in three matches.