Preview: Canterbury v Tasman

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Saturday, October 4, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Saturday 4 October, 7.35pm at AMI Stadium, Addington
Played: 9, 2007-2013
Tasman wins: 2 | Canterbury wins: 7

Squad update: Canterbury Head Coach Scott Robertson has made seven changes to his starting line-up to play Tasman on Saturday. Daniel Lienert-Brown and Codie Taylor will make up the front row with Nepo Laulala this week. The other change in the forwards is Matt Symons joining Dominic Bird at lock.

With Willi Heinz out with a knee injury, Nasi Manu will captain the side and Mitchell Drummond will play at halfback. Former Canterbury and then Tasman halfback Steve Alfeld may face his former team if he comes off the bench.

Dan Carter will also miss this week’s game due to injury. He bruised his calf in last Sunday’s match against Southland and although he has been recovering well, was ruled out of contention at today’s Captain’s Run. Richie Mo’unga will take the first five spot and Luteru Laulala will play at fullback.

Shane Christie becomes the eighth Tasman player to bring up fifty games for the union, and the inspirational flanker will want a big game with the absences of prop Tim Perry and back row forward Pete Samu – scratched from the team via injury.

The Tasman backline remains unchanged from the side that defeated Otago 32-24 in Nelson last week.

Form: Two weeks ago Canterbury looked like they were cruising towards the ITM Cup Premiership title, but if seven days is a long time in rugby, double that is an eternity.

Losses to North Harbour and Southland has resulted in the red and blacks dropping to third on the table, and if they sink to their third straight loss a home semi-final will be in doubt.

Tasman have been one of the great stories of 2014, jointly top of the table alongside Taranaki, and their seventh win of the season will provisionally move the Makos to the top of the table.

With a semi-final guaranteed, the tourists will be looking for their third win over Canterbury which in the process will all but lock down a final’s berth at Trafalgar Park.

Last match: Canterbury 28 Tasman 13, 24.08.13 in Blenheim (ITMC)

Last Tasman win: Tasman 25 Canterbury 22, 24.08.12 in Nelson (ITMC)

Biggest Tasman score: 32 (32-36), 05.08.11 in Blenheim (ITMC)

Biggest Canterbury score: 48 (48-10) 10.10.08 in Christchurch (ANZC QF)

Biggest differential: Canterbury by 38 (48-10) 10.10.08 in Christchurch (ANZC QF)

Key players: Richie Mo’unga will have plenty of responsibility on his shoulders after Carter was ruled out, a big loss after Canterbury were resigned to being without halfback and captain Willi Heinz.

Adam Whitelock and Nathaniel Apa will want big games, but the blowtorch will be on the champion’s pack, with Luke Whitelock, Matt Todd and Nasi Manu needing to prove a point.

Tasman on paper look as powerful as their illustrious counterparts, and the experience of Jimmy Cowan along with the fine boot of Marty Banks will have Canterbury on high alert.

Up front Christie has been part of a dynamic combination boasting Joe Wheeler and Quentin MacDonald, who will back themselves in the loose but will need strong games against the home team’s wounded but capable set piece.