Preview: Hawke’s Bay v Southland

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Saturday, October 11, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Saturday 11 October, 5.35pm at McLean Park, Napier
Played: 50, 1902-2013
Hawke's Bay wins: 21 | Southland wins: 28 | Draws: 1

Squad update: Hawke’s Bay have made a few changes, notably in the front row where Brendon Edmonds moves to loosehead prop, giving Canadian prop Jason Marshall a run out at tighthead.

Magpies captain Brendon O’Connor returns from his hip injury to start at number eight, replacing Mark Atkins who moves to the bench, while out wide Shannan Chase replaces Mikey Vuicakau on the left wing.

Southland have made a change in their backline, with Mark Jackman shifting from fullback into the midfield, while Junior Ngaluafe retains the 15 jersey.

Form: Victory not only ensures that the Magpies lock up the Ranfurly Shield for the year, but success by any margin will give Hawke’s Bay a home semi-final at a shot at the ITM Cup Premiership for 2015.

With five wins from nine matches so far, the side has lost to North Harbour and Manawatu over recent weeks so avoiding three straight losses will be crucial for the province.

Southland, sitting fourth in the Championship prior to the final round commencing, need a bonus point triumph to lock down their spot in the semi-finals.

While the Stags lost to Counties in their most recent match, they were too good for Canterbury with a 28-26 win in Christchurch recently, which was their fourth win of the season.

Last match: Hawke's Bay 23 Southland 15, 03.10.13 in Invercargill (ITMC)

Last Southland win: Southland 35 Hawke's Bay 7, 16.09.12 in Invercargill (ITMC)

Biggest Southland score: 51 (51-27), 05.08.01 in Napier (NPC)

Biggest Hawke's Bay score: 43 (43-10), 17.09.94 in Napier (NPC)

Biggest differential: Southland by 34 (46-12), 10.08.02 in Invercargill (NPC)

Key players: Chase’s inclusion ensures that Hawke’s Bay have selected their most lethal backline, with the left winger taking place alongside the exciting try scoring Ryan Tongia, while Richard Buckman and Jason Shoemark line up at 15 and second five-eighth.

Up front O’Connor will feature alongside Tony Lamborn who has been a workhorse, while Ash Dixon and Jason Marshall will back their efforts up front.

Lima Sopoaga will play his first Ranfurly Shield clash despite making his debut for Wellington four years ago, after the first five-eighth missed the side’s loss against Counties due to his brother’s wedding.

The Stags credentialed back row of John Hardie, Tim Boys and Elliot Dixon will feel they can get on top away from home, while Jamie Mackintosh will hope to impose himself in Southland’s final regular season game.