PREVIEW: Otago v North Harbour

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Friday, September 16, 2016    Getty Images

Match details: Otago v North Harbour, 2.35pm, Saturday 17 September, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Played: 35 (1986-2015)
Wins: Otago 24, North Harbour 11
Last match: Otago 39, North Harbour 32 (2015)

Otago are one of the form teams of the Mitre10 Cup with five straight wins. Only once have they failed to get a four try bonus point to sit on 24 competition points out of a maximum 25 points. North Harbour are a much improved force in 2016 and started with a great win over Premiership side Counties Manukau in round one to show that they are a threat to everyone.

Otago has underscored the depth of its squad with a reshuffling for this clash. Highlanders flanker James Lentjes comes into the loose forward trio while Aki Seuli is replaced by Craig Millar at loosehead prop. In the backs, Sio Tomkinson takes the place of Matt Faddes at centre while the injured Jack Wilson is replaced by the dynamic Fa’asui Fuatai on the left wing. For North Harbour, exciting outside back Matt Duffie is replaced by Mark Telea on the left wing in a largely unchanged side from their last clash against Manawatu.

The inside pairing of Bryn Hall and Bryn Gatland will be central to North Harbour’s chances in this match. The two ‘Bryns’ have combined well in 2016 and boast an equal blend of attacking endeavour and tactical nous. For Otago, fullback Michael Collins has been at the top of their attacking statistics throughout the competition and will look to make use of any space given to him by the North Harbour defence.

Otago: Michael Collins, Mitchell Scott, Sio Tomkinson, Tei Walden, Fa’asui Fuatai, Fletcher Smith, Jonathan Ruru, Paul Grant (captain), James Lentjes, Lee Allan, Tom Franklin, Josh Dickson, Donald Brighouse, Sam Anderson-Heather, Craig Millar. Reserves: Sekonaia Pole, Mike Mata’afa, Hisa Sasagi, Blair Tweed, Naulia Dawai, Josh Walden, Scott Eade, Matt Faddes.

North Harbour: Matt McGahan, Mark Telea, Matt Vaega, Michael Little, Tevita Li, Bryn Gatland, Murphy Taramai, Connor Collett, Glen Preston, Chris Vui (captain), Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Sione Mafileo, Vyron Smith, Nic Mayhew. Reserves: Adrian Smith, Hani Fatai, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Brandon Nansen, Hapakuki Moala-Liavaaa, Chris Smylie, Daniel Hilton-Jones, Lukas Swart.