Preview: Tasman v Otago

Getty Images

Sunday, September 28, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Sunday 28 September, 2.35pm at Trafalgar Park, Nelson
Played: 8, 2007-2013
Otago wins: 6 | Tasman wins: 1 | Draws: 1

Squad update: Tasman have made just two changes from the team that easily accounted for Wellington last week, with Siua Halanukonuka replacing Ross Geldenhuys at tighthead prop.

Meanwhile the only change to the backline sees former All Blacks halfback Jimmy Cowan called into the starting team, replacing Billy Guyton.

Otago coach Tony Brown has made a risky gambit deciding to rest some players, even though the blue and golds welcome back captain Charlie O’Connell, who replaces Lee Allan who has been sidelined with a head knock.

Naulia Dawai and James Lentjes are given starts at blindside and openside respectively, while Liam Coltman and Joe Latta get nods at hooker and lock.

Out wide Jayden Spence replaces Tei Walden at second five-eighth, while Tony Ensor has been named at fullback replacing Trent Renata.

Form: Tasman are not only the most successful side ever promoted to the Premiership, they are legitimate contenders for the overall crown, and will be looking for their sixth win this season.

With their only blemish being a one-point loss to Taranaki, Tasman will be keen to use their impressive 2014 form to gain some parity in the overall ledger, with the Makos boasting just one victory over Otago during their short rivalry.

Otago have looked promising at times this season, playing with an attacking verve beyond what we would normally see from teams from the Deep South – their most recent match, a 38-7 demolition job over Waikato, showed how dazzling they can be.

Brown’s troops will be keen to win their second match on the road, and fourth overall, which will ensure the union remains within the Championship top four at the end of the round.

Last match: Tasman 49 Otago 16, 06.09.13 in Nelson (ITMC)

Last Otago win: Otago 41 Tasman 34, 19.10.12 in Dunedin (ITMC SF)

Biggest Otago score: 41 (41-34), 19.10.12 in Dunedin (ITMC SF)

Biggest Tasman score: 49 (49-16), 06.09.13 in Nelson (ITMC)

Biggest differential: Tasman by 33 (49-16), 06.09.13 in Nelson (ITMC)

Key players: Marty Banks continues his remarkable form at this level, while outside of him the likes of Bryce Heem and Kieron Fonotia have ensured that the Makos have plenty of bite.

However it is the likes of the big men, with Quentin MacDonald, Shane Christie and Joe Wheeler making statements throughout the year, that will ensure that the Otago forwards will hold no fear for the host’s pack.

The tourists will look to Hayden Parker to keep proceedings under control with seven changes likely to ensure there is some disruption to the team’s systems, while the return of Liam Coltman should give the visiting province a little more menace around the edges of the ruck.