PREVIEW: Wellington v Waikato

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Friday, October 14, 2016    Getty Images

Match details: Saturday 15 October, 7.35pm at Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Played: 68
Wins: Waikato 30, Wellington 37, drawn 1
Last match: Wellington 31 Waikato 14 (2015)
Biggest winning margin: Waikato by 50 (58–8) in 1997

Waikato have been bolstered for the do or die clash with the inclusion of stars Damian McKenzie and Stephen Donald. McKenzie has been released from the All Blacks and will take over Sam Christie in the number ten jersey while Christie shifts out to second five-eighth. Veteran play maker Stephen Donald has been named on the bench for his first Mitre10 Cup appearance overcoming a shoulder injury. The Lions have made eight changes to the side that was thumped by Taranaki last week. Among the talking points are the debut of Selesi Rayasi on the left wing and the return of captain Brad Shields, lock Sam Lousi and USA Eagles prop Chris Baumann to the starting line up.

Waikato rebounded from back-to-back losses to Canterbury and Northland in resounding style with a 46-22 win over Hawke’s Bay last weekend. The win was the Mooloos fourth victory from nine matches to take them to sixth place on the Championship ladder. Wellington started the season strong but have wobbled in their last two matches with comprehensive losses to Manawatu and Taranaki.

Waikato need a bonus point win to move into the top four in the Premiership. That will put them equal with Auckland on 30 points. In the instance Waikato and Auckland finish in fourth place, Waikato will progress to the semifinals due to their round robin win over Auckland. Wellington need a bonus point win to claim to spot in the Championship. Any other result and they will stay in second place.

Given the desperate nature of this clash for Waikato, expect the Mooloos backline to attack at any opportunity. In Jordan Trainor at fullback and Damian McKenzie at first five-eighth, Waikato possess two fleet-footed playmakers while Willis Halaholo adds firepower in the middle of the park and Iliesa Ratuva and Sevu Reece the express pace out wide. The Lions well balanced backline will need to be up quick on defence to limit Waikato’s attacking opportunities and alert to shut down any counter attack from the visiting side.


Waikato: Jordan Trainor, Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara, Willis Halaholo, Sam Christie, Sevu Reece, Damian McKenzie, Pele Cowley; Whetu Douglas (c), Adam Burn, Jordan Manihera, Brian Alainu'uese, Jacob Skeen, Atu Moli, Hame Faiva, Tau Koloamatangi. Reserves: Steven Misa, Sefo Kautai, Latu Talakai, Leva Fifita, Mitch Jacobson, Isaac Boss, Stephen Donald, Tevita Taufui.

Wellington: Peter Umaga-Jensen, Joe Hill, Wes Goosen, Shaun Treeby, Salesi Rayasi, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Tomasi Palu, Hoani Matenga, Brad Shields (c), Vaea Fifita, Sam Lousi, Mark Reddish, Chris Baumann, Leni Apisai, Reggie Goodes. Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Vince Sakaria, Alex Fidow, Galu Taufale, Greg Foe, Sheridan Rangihuna, Pakai Turia, Mike Lealava'a.