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Match preview: Otago vs. Taranaki

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Friday, September 23, 2005    allblacks.com    Photosport

Taranaki has not won in Dunedin since a 15-14 success in 1986 (when its tries were scored by current Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper and current Manawatu coach Charlie McAlister), and has won only twice at Carisbrook since the start of the Air New Zealand NPC – the other win being 16-13 in 1979.

Even so, Taranaki head south full of confidence after last Saturday’s win against Auckland, and also with the knowledge that Otago is well within their range after wins in three of the last five meetings between the sides.

“It’s a huge game for us,” Taranaki coach Kieran Crowley said. “Obviously there will be a lot of emotion in it for them (Otago) with Hoefty heading off, but that won’t be a distraction for us. We’ll be trying to ignore that as much as we can so that we remain focused on what we have to do.”

Crowley cited the 40-19 win against Auckland as an example of what his players are capable of when they perform to their potential, and when things go their way.

“The biggest thing was that our players stuck to the task and kept working on what we had planned, even when Auckland got out to 13-0 without really having played that much rugby,” Crowley said.

“It could very easily have got away from us at that point. Most people probably expected that it would but the guys held their focus, maintained the faith in what they were trying to achieve, worked hard and were rewarded for that. The task for us now is to try and do it again.”

Hoeft’s farewell apart, Taranaki will also probably have to contend with the return of All Blacks hooker Anton Oliver at some stage in the match, after four months on the sideline due to a calf injury.

Oliver injured his leg playing against the Crusaders at Carisbrook on 7 May, but is now set to return to Air New Zealand NPC duty after getting through two weeks of work with the Otago B squad. He played a full 80 minutes for the province’s second team last weekend at Whangarei.

Oliver’s return will boost an Otago side searching for its third straight win to try and strengthen its hold on a semifinal position prior to a difficult finish to the campaign at home to Canterbury and then away to Waikato.

Hoefty’s farewell

The New Zealand career of one of the game’s true heroes comes to an end when Otago takes on Taranaki in this weekend’s round of the Air New Zealand NPC.

The game will be the 78th and last in the 10-year Otago career of former All Blacks prop Carl Hoeft, who first appeared on the representative scene in 1993 playing for Thames Valley. After 37 games for Thames Valley between 1993 and 1996, which included helping them to the Air New Zealand NPC Division Three title in 1995, Hoeft headed south for Dunedin where he made his Otago debut against a Manawatu XV at Carisbrook in 1996.

With Otago, Hoeft shared in an Air New Zealand NPC Division One success in 1998, while he was part of the Highlanders side that made the Rebel Sport Super 12 semifinals four times between 1998 and 2002, and played in that memorable all South Island Super 12 final in 1999. He finished his nine years in Super 12 with 98 matches for the Highlanders.

As an All Black, Hoeft appeared 31 times for New Zealand between 1998 and 2003, with 30 of those matches being Tests. He made his Test debut against England as a replacement at Auckland in 1998, also making his final appearance off the bench during the third and fourth playoff against France at the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Sydney.

The Otago union is celebrating Hoeft’s career with a number of activities around the match, which includes a kids’ giveaway of Carl Hoeft headbands as well a new ‘Bring the Kidz to the Brook’ discounted ground entry promotion.

Supporters are also being invited to sign and leave personal messages on special All Blacks, Highlanders and Otago jerseys that are on display at the Vodafone store in George Street. These will then be presented to Hoeft after the game as a special thank you from the region he served so well.

Teams
Otago: Craig Clare, Glen Horton, Neil Brew, Seilala Mapusua, Matt Saunders, Nick Evans, Chris Smylie, Grant Webb, Josh Blackie, Craig Newby (captain), James Ryan, Tom Donnelly, Carl Hayman, Jason Macdonald, Carl Hoeft.
Reserves: Anton Oliver, Chris King, Filipo Levi, Alando Soakai, Toby Morland, Ryan Bambry, Jason Shoemark

Taranaki: James Hilgendorf, Sailosi Tagicakibau, Matt Harvey, Lifeimi Mafi, Scott Ireland, Sam Young, Craig Fevre, Chris Masoe, Joe Lawn, John Willis/Scott Breman, Jason Eaton, Paul Tito (captain), Gordon Slater, Andrew Hore, Tony Penn.
Reserves: Laurence Corlett, Hamish Mitchell, Willis/Breman/Brendon McGlashan, Tomasi Soqeta, Brendon Watt, Todd Feather, James King.

Otago v Taranaki, Dunedin
Kick-off: Saturday at 5.30pm
Referee: Gary Wise (Hawke’s Bay)
TAB odds: Otago $1.30, Taranaki $3.30