Preview: Hawke’s Bay v Otago

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Sunday, September 14, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Sunday 14 September, 4.35pm at McLean Park, Napier
Played: 53, 1887–2013
Hawke’s Bay wins: 19 | Otago wins: 33 | Draws: 1

Squad update: While All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg isn’t available, the Magpies have introduced Havelock North’s Shannon Chase, whose Sevens skills will suit Hawke’s Bay attacking style.

How the Magpies approach this match will be interesting, as their flamboyant style is attractive but as they found out last year isn’t always suited to the cauldron of a Shield match, with Hawke’s Bay losing the Log o’Wood to the Steelers last year on their first defence.

With Ihaia West struggling with a knee injury, Hawke’s Bay have selected two former Highlanders in Matt Berquist and Jason Shoemark on the bench.

Big centre Kieran Moffat is back for the blue and golds, resulting in Jayden Spence moving out to the wings.

Up front Joe Latta has recovered from his knee injury, while TJ Ioane and James Lentjies return to the starting team, while Jackson Hemopo and Donald Brighouse are on the bench.

Otherwise the new Shield holders have kept the faith, the pack is unchanged while the backline keeps the likes of Ihaia West and Robbie Fruean in their arsenal.

Form: Since winning the Shield off Counties, Hawke’s Bay were defeated 23-21 by Northland, so getting back into the winner’s circle will be a must if the home team is to successfully defend one of New Zealand Rugby’s greatest trophies.

The fact that Otago hasn’t beaten the Magpies since 2010 will be of little assistance, for a loss wouldn’t just result in the visitors taking the Shield but would see Hawke’s Bays position in the Championship top four become tenuous.

Otago head coach Tony Brown was bitterly disappointed with his team’s loss to Northland earlier in the round, the blue and golds third defeat in five matches.

Blowing a 20-15 lead against the Taniwha was frustrating, but the tourists have the benefit of being given their second Shield challenge this year after losing to the Steelers earlier in 2014.

Last match: Hawke’s Bay 29 Otago 24, 17.10.13 in Dunedin (ITMC SF)

Last Otago win: Otago 17 Hawke’s Bay 16, 05.09.10 in Dunedin (ITMC)

Biggest Hawke’s Bay score: 38 (38–3), 04.09.82 in Napier (NPC)

Biggest Otago score: 60 (60–21), 28.07.89 in Napier (NPC)

Biggest differential: Otago by 39 (60–21), 28.07.89 in Napier (NPC)

Key players: Determined to hold the Shield for longer than six days, the duration of their tenure last year (the shortest in Ranfurly history) is something that the Magpies players and coaching team are desperate to extend in 2014.

The halves pairing of West and Chris Eaton will be important if the likes of Robbie Fruean, Ryan Tongia and Richard Buckman are to be unleashed.

A strong Otago pack, with international hooker in waiting Liam Coltman starting, is backed by the likes of Ioane and Latta – but the pressure will be on the tourist’s backline to do the business.

Hayden Parker will want a big match as will Under 20s halfback Josh Renton, with 16 tries conceded in five matches, the blue and gold’s defence will need to be on alert against a deadly Magpies backline.