PREVIEW: Otago v Auckland

Getty Images

Wednesday, September 20, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Otago v Auckland, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, Thursday, 7.35pm

Two changes have been made to Auckland's starting XV from that which beat Southland at the weekend. All Black Akira Ioane returns to the side on the blindside flank while Jerome Kaino will play No.8. Flanker Blake Gibson has been bracketed as he is still suffering some niggles. Centre Malakai Fekitoa returns to start at centre with George Moala moving to second five-eighths.

Played: 84
Wins: Otago 21, Auckland 55, Draws 8
Last time: Otago 17, Auckland 54 in Auckland 2016

Auckland are looking to continue their advance, albeit against another Championship side. Coach Nick White said, "We have to keep working on our starts, after letting in early points, and tidy up the lineout. Otago assistant coach Tom Donnelly is a lineout specialist. They have a pretty good defensive lineout and so we have to nail that. Otago play a different style with the dry ground at the stadium. They play with a lot of tempo and have good skills. They are probably not the biggest side around, but are a team full of workers. They will keep coming at you. They nearly beat Harbour and they were not far off Canterbury. It's a good chance to build on our five points from last week, and we need to. We have to hold onto the ball or they'll gas us," he said.

Otago have posted 24 tries in their five games having made 51 clean breaks and beaten 100 defenders. They've made 537 passes and have had 492 carries. They've a tackle success rate of 83.6. Auckland's misfortunes are represented in their 16 tries and only 37 clean breaks, this in spite of having beaten 102 defenders in their six games. They've made 891 passes and have a tackle success rate of 87.7. One of the more interesting clashes in the game could be between flankers James Lentjes for Otago and the bracketed Blake Gibson for Auckland. Gibson, who spent time in the All Blacks squad ahead of the Argentine Test has made 44 carries as opposed to 18 by Lentjes and has made 130 metres against 78. Gibson has beaten five defenders to one and made 14 passes to eight but in lineout catches Lentjes has secured nine to two by Gibson. The Aucklander is slightly ahead in the tackle success rate with 89.9 percent to 88.1 for Lentjes.


Otago: 1.Aki Seiuli, 2.Sam Anderson-Heather, 3.Donald Brighouse, 4.Josh Furno, 5.Blair Tweed, 6.Adam Knight, 7.James Lentjes, 8.Sione Teu, 9.Josh Renton, 10.Josh Ioane, 11.Jona Nareki, 12.Teihorangi Walden, 13.Patelesio Tomkinson, 14.Mitchell Scott, 15.Fletcher Smith.

Substitutes: 16.Sekonaia Pole, 17.Craig Millar, 18.Hisa Sasagi, 19.Tom Rowe, 20.Slade McDowall, 21.Jonathan Ruru, 22.Leroy van Dam, 23.Vilimoni Koroi.

Auckland: 1.Sam Prattley, 2.Greg Pleasants-Tate, 3.Marcel Renata, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu, 5.Ben Nee-Nee, 6.Akira Ioane, 7.Blake Gibson/Sinclair Dominikovich-Murray, 8.Jerome Kaino, 9.Jono Hickey, 10.Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald, 11.Melani Nanai, 12.George Moala, 13.Malakai Fekitoa, 14.Vince Aso, 15.Jordan Trainor.

Substitutes: 16.Kurt Eklund, 17.Emersen Tamura-Paki, 18.Isi Tu'ungafasi, 19.Jamie Lane, 20. Dominikovich-Murray/Dalton Papali'i, 21.Lisati Milo-Harris, 22.TJ Faiane, 23.Latiume Fosita.