SEMIFINAL PREVIEW: Otago v Bay of Plenty

Getty Images

Wednesday, October 19, 2016    Getty Images

MATCH DETAILS: Friday 21 October, 7.35pm at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Played: 36 (1938–2016)
Wins: Bay of Plenty 12, Otago 24
Biggest winning margin: Otago by 47 (62–15) in 2001

The return of key forwards Tom Franklin, James Lentjes and Paul Grant for Otago but has been offset by the loss of hooker Liam Coltman to the All Blacks squad. In the backline, Matt Faddes moves in one spot to his preferred position of centre with electric wing Fa'asiu Fuata'i rejoining the run on side after a week off. The big talking point for Bay of Plenty is the inclusion of All Blacks star Sam Cane on the bench. In the only change to the starting fifteen from last week’s clash against Hawke’s Bay, Jesse Parete returns to the number six jersey after overcoming a head knock.

It went down to the wire last time these sides clashed with Otago edging Bay of Plenty by one point in a 33-32 thriller. Both teams scored four tries in the round four clash with Bay of Plenty’s explosive centre Lalakai Foketi crossing for a hattrick. The Steamers had a chance to take the lead late in the game but a conversion attempt drifted wide and Otago held on for the slender win in Tauranga.

Only Canterbury has scored more tries than Bay of Plenty in the Mitre 10 Cup and a major part of the Steamers success has been their potent mid field combination of Teddy Stanaway and Lalakai Fekitoa. The duo complement each other perfectly with Sevens specialist Stanaway providing the pace, fancy feet and link work while Foketi brings a powerful running game and fine finishing. Otago respond with a talented pairing of their own in Teihorangi Walden and Matt Faddes who have proven to be an effective combination on both attack and defence.

It promises to be an exciting clash under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium between two attacking sides. The Steamers will throw everything at the Otago defence like they have done all year and will test the home side. Otago had the luxury of resting some key players last week and this could prove the difference against a side which will be feeling the pinch of an intense season.

Otago: 1: Craig Millar 2: Sam Anderson-Heather 3: Donald Brighouse 4: Blair Tweed 5: Tom Franklin 6: Naulia Dawai 7: James Lentjes 8: Paul Grant (C) 9: Jonathan Ruru 10: Fletcher Smith 11: Fa’asiu Fuata’I 12: Teihorangi Walden 13: Matt Faddes 14: Mitchell Scott 15: Michael Collins
Reserves: Sekonaia Pole, Aki Seiuli, Josh Hohneck, Josh Dickson, Adam Knight, Josh Walden, Scott Eade, Sio Tomkinson

Bay of Plenty: 1. Aidan Ross 2. Joseph Royal 3. Siegfried Fisi'ihoi 4. Keepa Mewett 5. Culum Retallick 6.Jesse Parete 7. Henry Stowers 8. Joe Tupe 9. Te Aihe Toma 10. Dan Hollinshead 11. Regan Ware 12. Teddy Stanaway 13. Lalakai Foketi 14. Monty Ioane 15. Isaac Te Aute
Reserves: 16. James O'Reilly 17. Solomona Sakalia 18. Pingi Tala'apitaga 19. Sam Cane 20. Matty Axtens 21. Ruki Tipuna 22. Terrence Hepetema 23. Chase Tiatia