Preview: Tasman v Bay of Plenty

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Friday, August 21, 2015    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Form: The Makos showed there is little hangover from their outstanding 2014 season, they looked sharp and organised against Waikato and put together one of the more comprehensive victories of the round with a 35-20 win.

The style of play was similar to what we saw last season, nothing too fancy or elaborate, just a good old fashioned game plan where action takes place at the right end of the field while all players work hard to ensure their core roles are completed – head coach Kieran Keane has a well drilled outfit at his command.

Bay of Plenty are not getting ahead of themselves, but they too started the season with a valuable win but beating Harbour is one thing, heading down to Tasman’s backyard and taking four competition points is another thing all together.

Harbour didn’t allow the Steamers to close out the match unscathed, Terrence Hepetema could be out for the bulk of the season after suffering a nasty ankle injury, Nathan Harris has a sore toe while Tino Nemani and Keepa Mewett were victims of head knocks and the latter will miss this week’s game.

The pleasing aspect for this weekend’s visitors is their strategy looked sound, Tauranga Sports playmaker Nick Evemy pulled the string well, while the fireworks of their attack, encapsulated by strapping left wing Chase Tiatia, was the point of difference between the two provinces.

Friday 21 August, 7.35pm at Trafalgar Park, Nelson
Played: 7, 2006-2014
Tasman wins: 3 | Bay of Plenty wins: 4

Last match: Tasman 56 Bay of Plenty 27, 24.08.14 in Mt Maunganui (ITMC)
Last Bay of Plenty win: Bay of Plenty 24 Tasman 13, 17.09.09 in Mt Maun
Biggest Tasman score: 56 (56-27), 24.08.14 in Mt Maunganui (ITMC)
Biggest Bay of Plenty score: 39 (39-41), 10.10.10 in Blenheim (ITMC)
Biggest differential: Tasman by 29, 24.08.14 in Mt Maunganui (ITMC)

Squad update: The Tasman Makos have made three changes to their starting line-up for their first regular season game in Nelson.

The only change in the forwards sees South African lock Marco Kotze earn his first NPC start in place of Alex Ainley, the grizzled campaigner troubled by the flu during the early part of the week. Ainley moves to the bench.

The other two changes are in the outside back division. Left winger Trael Joass is out with a shoulder injury, being replaced by Mitchell Scott who scored a brace of tries for the Tasman Red Devils against Buller on Saturday. Long-serving fullback Robbie Malneek makes way for Trent Renata, the Highlanders utility given another chance after a muddled display against Wellington pre-season.

Harris, Mewett and Hepetema are out of the match day squad, assistant coach Rodney Gibbs said it wasn’t worth risking players who at a pinch could suit up, clearly the Steamers are looking at the entire season and don’t want to risk long term injuries to key men.

Dan Hollinshead comes into the reserves bench after missing the first match with concussion symptoms, while in the midfield Caleb Hall gets a start at second five-eighth after impressing with a cameo last week.

Two players are likely to make their debut for the province, with Sabastian Siataga and Aidan Ross the new tight five replacements. Next week the forwards will be further reinforced with All Blacks number seven Sam Cane available for round three.

Key players: Tasman’s third consecutive victory over Waikato last week was notable for the contribution of the Makos brilliant loose forward contingent.

Shane Christie, Pete Samu and Liam Squire all crossed for five pointers.

Number eight Squire’s efforts were well received, with the big flank looking like he has put his long term injury concerns behind him.

After a mixed pre-season campaign, Tasman’s defence also looked a step up, especially out wide. Billy Guyton was a terrier around the tight exchanges, while David Havili and Kieron Fonotia were organised against Waikato’s dangerous runners.

The Steamers D was also on song, co-captains Culum Retallick and Carl Axtens as always led from the front, while Evemy wasn’t just playing conductor, the defensive efforts of the Bay of Plenty first five-eighth was impressive.

Up front this will be a tantalising contest, the Steamers pack, like their rivals, has no internationals but Joe Royal, Tim Bond and Johan Bardoul have been able to match it against any comer in recent seasons.

If Solomona Sakalia and Pingi Tala’apitaga add their contributions they will back themselves against the fast moving Tasman forwards.