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PREVIEW: North Harbour v Southland

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Friday, September 23, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Form: North Harbour have two wins out of five played having beaten Counties Manukau (20-17) in their opening game and Manawatu (29-25) for their second. In the meantime they have lost to some heavy hitters, Waikato (15-26), Wellington (17-21) and Otago (13-24). Southland have one extra game with their first win coming in their last outing a 20-16 win over Bay of Plenty on Wednesday.

Played: 23

Wins: North Harbour 14 Southland 9

Last match: Southland 25 North Harbour 26, Invercargill 2015

Teams:

North Harbour: 1.Nic Mayhew, 2.Adrian Smith, 3.Sione Mafileo, 4.Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5.Brandon Nansen, 6.Chris Vui, 7.Connor Collett, 8.Murphy Taramai, 9.Chris Smylie, 10.Bryn Gatland, 11.Tevita Li, 12.Michael Little, 13.Matt Vaega, 14.Matt Duffie, 15.Matt McGahan.

Substitutes: 16.Kalem Chan Boon, 17.Hani Fatai, 18.Karl Tu'inukuafe, 19.Glken Preston, 20.Hapakuki Moala-Liavaa, 21.Bryn Hall, 22.Daniel Hilton-Jones, 23.Afa Faatau.

Southland: 1.Joseph Walsh, 2.Brayden Mitchell, 3.Guy Millar, 4.Mike McKee, 5.Matthew Phillip, 6.Bill Fukofuka, 7.Tim Boys, 8.Joshua Clark, 9.Jimmy Cowan, 10.Wharenui Hawera, 11.Jaye Thompson, 12.James Schrader, 13.Dylan Collier, 14.Mike Molloy, 15.Junior Nagluafe.

Substitutes: 16.Jason Rutledge, 17.Penu Ravai, 18.Morgan Mitchell, 19.Mike Stewart, 20.Mika Mafi, 21.Michael Dowsett, 22.Kieran Moffat, 23.Tauasosi Tuimavave.

Squad Update: Captain James Parsons is having another week off to recover from a head knock and Adrian Smith has been moved from prop to hook the scrum. Lock Branden Nansen has been included and Chris Vui will move to the blindside flank. Matt Duffie returns to the starting lineup and and Matt McGahan will stay at fullback. Halfback Chris Smylie has been given his first start of the season.

Tim Boys, after a long illness break came off the bench on Wednesday, but will start in Albany, along with No.8 Josh Clark while Mika Mafi will come off the bench. Elliot Dixon won't be available due to his All Blacks' duties. Changes have been made to the back reserves with Kieran Moffat and Tauasosi Tuimavave coming in for Greg Dyer and Keanu Kahukura.

Key Players: Prop Nic Mayhew becomes a key performer in the North Harbour front five in Parsons' absence and it will be important to handle the Southland front five who have plenty of experience with Brayden Mitchell at hooker. In the loose the home side will be well tested if Southland's Tim Boys is anywhere near his best touch. The home backs are growing in attacking confidence and first five-eighths Bryn Gatland, second five-eighths Michael Little and centre Matt Vaega represent a significant threat. However, Southland first five-eighths Wharenui Hawera will be well known to Gatland especially given their Waikato links and the ability to move their teams around the field will tell all.