PREVIEW: Otago v Wellington

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016    Getty Images

Match Details: Otago v Wellington, Thursday 25 August, 7.35pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Games played: 114
Wins: Otago 41, Wellington 64
Draw: 9
Last match: Otago 14 Wellington 34 (2015)

Both teams made a statement in round one with bonus point wins. Wellington avenged their loss to Hawke’s Bay in the Championship final last year by defeating the Magpies 36-26 in Napier. In Invercargill, Otago trailed Southland at halftime before powering to an impressive 40-17 victory. Otago sit at the top of the Championship ladder by virtue of a better points difference than Wellington.

There is good news and bad news for Wellington with captain Brad Shields back at blindside flanker while last week’s debutant Galu Taufele is out with a calf injury. Sheridan Rangihuna also gets a start at halfback for the Lions with Tomasi Palu unavailable for personal reasons. For Otago, flanker Adam Knight has been ruled out with a head knock while stars Tom Franklin and Matt Faddes (bracketed) have been named in the run on side.

Rival first five-eighths Jackson Garden-Bachop and Fletcher Smith were instrumental in their sides victories last week. For Wellington, Garden-Bachop added 14 points in a masterful all round performance while Smith came off the bench to help spearhead Otago’s revival against Southland. With the new breakdown laws making more clean ball available to the pivots, Garden-Bachop and Smith will be looking for opportunities to spark their potent backlines and showcase their tactical nous. 

Two starkly different loose forward trios will square off in a vital battle. In number eight Vaea Fifita and blindside flanker Brad Shields, Wellington boast two of the hardest running loose forwards in the country and are rounded out by the ball playing skills of openside flanker Greg Foe. Led by captain Paul Grant at number eight, Otago’s trio is completed by the industrious pair of James Lentjes and Naulia Dawai on the flanks. While the battle at the breakdown will be fierce, Otago will need to keep Wellington’s dynamic loose forward runners in check if they are to come out on top.

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Wellington: Peter Umaga-Jensen, Joe Hill, Matt Proctor, Shaun Treeby, Wes Goosen, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Sheridan Rangihuna, Vaea Fifita, Greg Foe, Brad Shields (c), Sam Lousi, Hoani Matenga, Chris Baumann, Leni Apisai, VInce Sakaria. Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Alex Fidow, Joe Apikotoa, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Isaac O'Connor, TJ Va'a, Pakai Turia, Mike Lealava'a.

Otago: Michael Collins/Tony Ensor, Mitchell Scott, Matt Faddes/Michael Collins, Teihorangi Walden, Jack Wilson, Fletcher Smith, Josh Walden, Paul Grant (c), James Lentjes, Naulia Dawai, Blair Tweed, Tom Franklin, Hisa Sasagi, Sam Andersn-Heather, Aki Seiuli. Reserves: Sekonia Pole, Craig Millar, Donald Brighouse, Josh Dickson, Dillon Hunt, Jonathan Ruru, Scott Eade, Sio Tomkinson.