PREVIEW: Auckland v Tasman

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Form: Auckland, having had some struggles for consistent form throughout the competition, in which they have suffered three losses, finally showed what they were capable of when putting Otago to the sword 54-17 last weekend. It was an impressive showing and a template for what the team needs to assure themselves of a finals berth. Tasman have been more consistent in success than Auckland but not with the same flair that has marked their campaigns of recent years. They have been forced to dig deeper and are strong defensively.

Played: 8

Wins: Auckland 5, Tasman 2, Drawn 1

Last match: Auckland 44 Tasman 24 (Premiership semifinal) 2015

Auckland: 1.Sam Prattley, 2.Kurt Eklund, 3.Marcel Renata, 4.Scott Scrafton, 5.Michael Fatialofa, 6.Liaki Moli, 7.Akira Ioane, 8.Steven Luatua, 9.Jono Hickey, 10.Simon Hickey, 11.Pryor Collier, 12.Vince Aso, 13.Rieko Ioane, 14.Lolagi Visinia, 15.Melani Nanai.

Substitutes: 16.Blake Hill, 17.Tom McHugh, 18.James Lay, 19.Ben Nee-Nee, 20.Josh Kaifa, 21.Leon Fukofuka, 22.Liam Steel, 23.Latiume Fosita.

Tasman: 1.Tim Perry, 2.Andrew Makalio, 3.Ross Geldenhuys, 4.Quinten Strange, 5.Alex Ainley, 6.Tevita Koloamatangi, 7.Shane Christie, 8.Pete Samu, 9.Billy Guyton, 10.Marty Banks, 11.Caleb Makene, 12.David Havili, 13.Alex Nankivell, 14.Tima Faingaanuku, 15.Mitchell Hunt.

Substitutes: 16.Jesse MacDonald, 17.Kane Hames, 18.Siua Halanukonuka, 19.Ethan Blackadder, 20.Shannon Frizell, 21.Finlay Christie, 22.Trael Joass, 23.Viliami Lolohea.
Squad Update: Taleni Seu suffered a shoulder injury in the win over Otago so that has seen Michael Fatialofa return at lock with Liaki Moli moving to the blindside flank. Apart from that the side remains the same with still no sign of Greg Pleasants-Tate or Joe Edwards back in consideration. Tasman have Shane Christie back on the side of the scrum after he had suffered a neck injury and missed their last game. Prop Kane Hames is in the reserves after he withdrew late in the piece before the Counties Manukau game. Tevita Koloamatangi has moved to the blindside of the scrum while Shannon Frizell will be on the banch. Kieron Fonotia is absent due to injury received last week with Alex Nankivell replacement. Set to make his first appearance in the Mitre 10 Cup is wing Viliami Lolohea who has been out of action since suffering an ankle injury in Super Rugby.

Key Players: Auckland will be looking to their tight five to provide them with the sort of foundation that can unleash their backline once again. Michael Fatialofa's return at lock will be a boost for that. Tasman are well equipped on their own account and young lock Quinten Strange has been making some impressive moves during the campaign. And in the loose Shane Christie and No.8 Pete Samu will provide a contest for Auckland loosies Akira Ioane and No.8 Steven Luatua. Where Tasman could struggle is in containing the power that Auckland can unleash through their backs. The constancy of their attack makes life spent tackling them very demanding and strength-sapping and so long as Auckland maintain the unity seen against Otago they should earn a win.