PREVIEW: Taranaki v Counties Manukau

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Friday, September 1, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images


Taranaki v Counties Manukau, Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, 7.35pm Saturday
Taranaki have opted to reunite their formidable mid-field pairing of second five-eighths Charlie Ngatai and centre Seta Tamanivalu. With All Black Waisake Naholo also being made available that gives the Taranaki backline a potent edge. Up front Hurricanes hooker Ricky Riccitelli will make his first start for the side while Mike Kainga will play at tighthead after Angus Ta'avao was ruled out with a head knock suffered last week against Wellington. Counties Manukau have elevated Fijian Sevens player Tevita Nabura to a starting role on the left wing while New Zealand Under-20s second five-eighths Orbyn Leger will make his first start for the side. As a result of niggly injuries Tim Nanai-Williams and Stephen Donald have been named on the bench. While they could have started coach Darryl Suasua felt it was better they be given the lesser roles. Jimmy Tupou will move to No.8 from lock while Sam Henwood will play on the openside flank due to injury to Fotu Lokotui. Lock Viliame Rarasea has recovered from an injury and will start on Saturday.

Played: 35
Wins: Taranaki 20, Counties Manukau 13, Drawn 2
Last time: Taranaki 30 Counties Manukau 29, Pukekohe 2016

In the season so far Taranaki have proven effective with 35 clean breaks, 52 defenders beaten for 10 tries while Counties Manukau have managed only 11 clean breaks, 16 defenders beaten and four tries. Counties Manukau have been under heavy defensive pressure with 298 tackles made and 40 missed yet their tackle success rate of 88.2 percent is superior to that of Taranaki which sits at 83.9 from 251 successful tackles and 48 missed.

Tactical options chosen rest largely in the hands of the respective five-eighths and while Counties Manukau have the experience of Baden Kerr, Taranaki offer the undoubted promise of Stephen Perofeta. Kerr's importance to Counties Manukau is evident in his having been on the field for all of their two games while Perofeta has missed 20 minutes. The Taranaki man is the most decisive runner having made 146 metres from 15 carries while Kerr has made 12 carries and gained only 46 metres. However, it is interesting that Kerr has made nearly twice as many passes with 35 compared to 18 by Perofeta. Kerr has kicked 13 times to 10 by Perofeta. And in attacking terms Perofeta has executed two clean breaks and made two try assists while Kerr has achieved neither.


Taranaki: 1.Mitchell Graham, 2.Ricky Riccitelli, 3.Mike Kainga, 4.Brad Tucker, 5.Leon Power, 6.Pita Sowakula, 7.Lachlan Boshier, 8.Toa Halifiji, 9.Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 10.Stephen Perofeta, 11.Manasa Mataele, 12.Charlie Ngatai, 13.Seta Tamanivalu, 14.Waisake Naholo. 15.Marty McKenzie.

Substitutes: 16.Sione Lea, 17.Jared Proffit, 18.Asaeli Sorovaki, 19.Fin Hoeata, 20.Adrian Wyrill, 21.Kylem O'Donnell, 22.Johnny Fa'auli, 23.Declan O'Donnell

Counties Manukau: 1.Pauliasi Manu, 2.Gafatasi Su'a, 3.Kalolo Tuiloma, 4.Viliame Rarasea, 5.Matiaha Martin, 6.Ronald Raaymakers, 7.Sam Henwood, 8.Jimmy Tupou (captain), 9.Augustine Pulu (c), 10.Baden Kerr, 11.Tevita Nabura, 12.Orbyn Leger, 13.Sam Furniss, 14.Nigel Ah Wong, 15.Luteru Laulala.

Substitutes: 16.Joe Royal, 17.Coree Te Whata-Colley, 18.Sean Bagshaw, 19.Leroy Jack, 20.Jonathan Kawau, 21.Jonathan Taumateine, 22.Stephen Donald, 23.Tim Nanai-Williams.