PREVIEW: Taranaki v Southland

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Thursday, September 8, 2016    Getty Images

Match details: Taranaki v Southland, Thursday 8 September, 7.35pm, Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth

Played: 53
Wins: Taranaki 32, Southland 20
Draws: 1
Last match: Taranaki 15, Southland 14 (2013)

Despite two big losses to Auckland and Otago, Southland showed promise in their tense 34-31 loss to Manawatu in round two. The Stags clinched two vital bonus points in that match and a victory over Taranaki would put them right back in the hunt for a top four spot. Taranaki were most impressive in their 55-28 round two win over Hawke’s Bay. The big win over the Magpies has been bookended with a win over Bay of Plenty and tight loss to Tasman.

Taranaki coach Colin Cooper has made five changes from the team that lost to Tasman last week. In the backs, Marty McKenzie and Stephen Perofeta have swapped positions with McKenzie moving into the ten jersey and Perofeta slotting into full back. The recall of Seta Tamanivalu to the wider All Blacks squad has seen Johnny Fa’auli come into the midfield. In the forwards, Berny Hall has taken over the captaincy from the rested Mitchell Crosswell. Southland have made six changes to the side that lost to Auckland with Greg Dyer replacing Lima Sopoaga at first five-eighth and a rejigged loose forward trio of Josh Clark, Wade McRae and Bill Fukofuka the talking points.

With the explosive Seta Tamanivalu missing from the Taranaki side, expect Sean Wainui to make an impact from centre. Wainui has played well on the wing this season but will be looking forward to playing in his preferred midfield position. Southland are desperate for a win and will look to their experienced halfback Jimmy Cowan to lead the way against a powerful Taranaki side.

Taranaki: Stephen Perofeta, Beaudein Waaka, Sean Wainui, Johnny Fa'auli, Declan O'Donnell, Marty McKenzie, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Iopu Iopu-Aso, Berny Hall (c), Mitchell Brown, Leighton Price, Ben Matwijow, Reuben O'Neill, Rhys Marshall, Mitchell Graham. Reserves, Sione Lea, Jared Proffit, Mike Kainga, Lachlan Boshier, Toa Halafihi, Kylem O'Donnell, Isaia Tuifua, Jackson Ormond.

Southland: Junior Ngaluafe, Mike Molloy, Kieran Moffat, Dylan Collier, Jaye Thompson - Te Muunu, Greg Dyer, Jimmy Cowan, Josh Clark, Wade McRae, Bill Fukofuka, Mike Stewart, Mike McKee, Morgan Mitchell, Brayden Mitchell, Peni Ravai. Reserves, Jason Rutledge, Shaun Stodart, Guy Millar, Matt Philip, Phil Halder, Jahvis Wallace, Tauasosi Tuimavave, Keanu Kahukura.