Preview: Canterbury v Southland

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Sunday, September 28, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Sunday 28 September, 4.35pm at AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Played: 101, 1890-2012 (DNP 2013)
Canterbury wins: 71 | Southland wins: 27 | Draws: 3

Squad update: Over two matches Canterbury coach Scott Robertson has made a remarkable 24 changes, with ten alterations to the starting XV this week.

The highest profile of which is the selection of 100 Test All Black Dan Carter, who will wear the number 10 jersey in his first match for the red and blacks since 2009.

Richiie Mo’unga will shift from first five to fullback, Rob Thompson comes in at second five eighth to replace Ryan Crotty, Willi Heinz resumes at halfback while Michael Green will debut for Canterbury on the left wing.

Up front Ben Funnell and Neo Laulala return to the front row, while the champion’s first choice back row is restored with Nasi Manu, Matt Todd and Luke Whitelock named.

Southland have decided to put Mark Jackman in the fullback’s jersey, while Bryan Milne and Otulea Katoa are on the right and left wings respectively. and Willis Halaholo and Cardiff Vaega line up in the midfield.

Craig Smith gets a chance in the second row, while workhorse Tim Boys brings up 100 matches for Southland at openside flanker.

Form: Canterbury is not the sort of team to dismiss a loss, and they would have had a tough week examining what was missing against Harbour during that 29-24 win at Albany.

Still with a 6-1 record, Taranaki, Tasman and Auckland are close behind so another defeat will not be tolerated if they are to lock down home advantage in the semi-finals.

This South Island derby is dominated by Canterbury with 71 wins in 101 matches, while the last time the two teams met in 2012 it was an 84-0 for the red and blacks.

Southland, who won the Ranfurly Shield of Canterbury in 2011, have been humbled by Tasman and Manawatu in recent weeks, but have still shown glimpses of the form that allowed them to conquer Northland, North Harbour and Bay of Plenty.

Last match: Canterbury 84 Southland 0, 30.09.12 in Christchurch (ITMC)

Last Southland win: Southland 22 Canterbury 19, 23.07.11 in Christchurch (ITMC, RS)

Biggest Canterbury score: 88 (88-12), 23.05.93 in Christchurch (NPC)

Biggest Southland score: 33 (33-11), 12.08.22 in Invercargill

Biggest differential: Canterbury by 84 (84-0), 30.09.12 in Christchurch (ITMC)

Key players: Dan Carter will probably be taken from the field from halftime, as typically players of the first five-eighth’s ilk are graduated back to rugby.

However it will be the efforts of the loose forwards that will be important, Todd has been one of the best in the competition, Manu has relished the responsibility of captaincy, while Whitelock is yet another off the famous production line.

Lima Sopoaga has been one of the Stags best, but one suspect that if there is to be an ambush in Christchurch it will come via the forwards.

Elliot Dixon, Tim Boys and John Hardie will back themselves against Canterbury’s breakdown prowess, while Jamie MacKintosh and JP Koen will believe they can put the squeeze on the home team’s scrum.