PREVIEW: Bay of Plenty v Waikato

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Friday, October 13, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Bay of Plenty v Waikato, Tauranga Domain, Tauranga, Saturday, 2.35pm

All Blacks hooker Nathan Harris is back for Bay of Plenty this week, although starting from the bench but he will be a welcome boost to confidence. From the side which beat Otago last week lock Culum Retallick is back for Troy Callander which is the only change to the playing XV. In the substitutes, Harris replaces Seb Siataga while Tyler Ardron replaces Matthew Axtens. Mitchell Karpik has also been included with Matthew Garland missing out. Lock Sam Caird will start this week in the only change to the Waikato forward pack. His locking partner James Tucker will captain the side. At first five-eighths Sam Christie returns after last week being on the bench with Matt Lansdowne dropping back to the back. Wing Zac Guildford has recovered from injury and will replace Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara. Hame Faiva will need to pass a fitness test after the injury he suffered last week and is bracketed in the reserves with Sekope Lopeti. Bailyn Sullivan, a late withdrawal last week has been included as cover for the outside backs.

Played: 81
Wins: Bay of Plenty 25, Waikato 52, Draws 4
Last time: Bay of Plenty 10 Waikato 43, Tauranga 2015

Competition organisers could not have asked for a more compelling end to the round-robin phase of the Mitre 10 Cup. And this game is right at the top of the list. Home team Bay of Plenty are right in the hunt for a play-offs berth in the Championship and that would be a significant effort for a side which has launched some new names into the national psyche, such as lock Keepa Mewett, No.Jesse Parete, halfback Richard Judd, second five-eighths Terrence Hepetema and fullback Chase Tiatia to name just some. Waikato on the other hand know a win will possibly see them avoid relegation if Auckland are unable to get up and beat Canterbury on Friday.

Bay of Plenty go into the game with the better ranking of the sides sitting sixth in the amalgamated statistics table for tries scored with 33 while Waikato are 11th on 26. The sides are closely matched in terms of clean breaks with both have made 102 and that closeness is seen in defenders beaten where Waikato have beaten 198 and Bay of Plenty 190. Waikato are better in metres gained with 3861 compared to Bay of Plenty's 3656 while Bay enjoys the advantage in the tackle success rate at 85.1 compared to Waikato's 83.4. And in offloads Waikato is significantly in front with 117, the second best in the competition behind Canterbury while Bay of Plenty are 12th on 67.


BAY OF PLENTY: 1.Aidan Ross, 2.Liam Polwart, 3.Jeff Thwaites, 4.Keepa Mewett, 5.Culum Retallick, 6.Tom Franklin, 7.Hugh Blake, 8.Jesse Parete, 9.Richard Judd, 10.Mike Delany, 11.Joe Webber, 12.Terrence Hepetema, 13.Lalakai Foketi, 14.Monty Ioane, 15.Chase Tiatia.

Substitutes: 16.Nathan Harris, 17.Jordan Lay, 18.James Lay, 19.Tyler Ardron, 20.Mitchell Karpik, 21.Aileone Junior Lafaele-Mua, 22.Luke Campbell, 23.Elijah Nicholas.

1.Ayden Johnstone, 2.Samisoni Taukei'aho, 3.Atu Moli, 4.Sam Caird, 5.James Tucker, 6.Luke Jacobson, 7.Mitch Jacobson, 8.Jordan Manihera, 9.Harrison Levien, 10.Sam Christie, 11.Sevu Reece, 12.Tevita Taufui, 13.Pita Ahki, 14.Zac Guildford, 15.Tyler Campbell.

Substitutes: 16.Hame Faiva/Sekope Lopeti, 17.Loni Uhila, 18.Sefo Kautai, 19.Laghlan McWhannell, 20.Adam Burn, 21.Pele Cowley, 22.Matt Lansdown, 23.Bailyn Sullivan.