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Semifinal preview: Canterbury v North Harbour

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Friday, October 20, 2017    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Match details: Saturday 21 October, 5.05pm at AMI Stadium, Christchuch. TICKETS.
Played: 29 (1988-2017)
Wins: Canterbury 19, North Harbour 7, Draws: 3
Last match: Canterbury 41 North Harbour 28 (23 September 2017)

TALE OF THE TAPE
Reigning champions Canterbury have stuttered twice in 2017 but will be fully focussed on a dangerous North Harbour side at AMI Stadium. North Harbour sprung out to an early lead when they clashed just three weeks ago and will know they cannot afford to let the pressure off if they are to upset the competition favourites in Christchurch. 

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HARBOUR’S HEROES
Canterbury gave up points easily in their two losses this year against Taranaki and Wellington and cannot afford to let their guard down against the Hibiscus. Tevita Li leads the Mitre 10 Cup try-scoring ladder with 11 tries and is complemented out wide by the classy Matt Duffie and electric Shaun Stevenson. Expect the thrilling trio to counter-attack at any opportunity and provide plenty of questions for the Canterbury defensive line.
MISSING MO’UNGA
Canterbury have been dealt a huge blow with the unavailability of the leading point-scorer in the Mitre 10 Cup, Richie Mo’unga. The classy young pivot has been asked to remain with the All Blacks squad for this weekend’s third Bledisloe Cup Test in Australia. Mo’unga has been a key cog for Canterbury this year and will be replaced in the number 10 jersey by Brett Cameron who has looked good in his previous appearances for the red and blacks. North Harbour are looking strong at first five-eighth with the impressive Fijian international Ben Volavola starting in place of the injured Bryn Gatland.

THE SCOOP

North Harbour defied the odds in 2016 to be elevated to the Premiership and have continued to surprise in the top division. Their forward pack has been powerful and cohesive and the backline thrilling and daring. There will be no change in game-plan from the Hibiscus. Canterbury have hit the wobbles a couple of times this year and the loss of Mo’unga will be felt hard. An upset could be in the air.

TEAMS
Canterbury:
George Bridge, Josh McKay, Tim Bateman, Rob Thompson, Braydon Ennor, Brett Cameron, Mitchell Drummond, Luke Whitelock (c), Billy Harmon, Tom Sanders, Dominic Bird, Mitchell Dunshea, Siate Tokolahi, Ben Funnell, Alex Hodgman. Reserves: Nathan Vella, Chris Gawler, Oliver Jager, Hamish Dalzell, Reed Prinsep, Jack Stratton, Inga Finau, Marshall Suckling.

North Harbour: Chris Eves, James Parsons, Michael Tamoaieta, Jarrad Hoeta, Glenn Preston, Connor Collett, Murphy Taramai, Chris Smylie, Ben Volavola, Tevita Li, Harrison Groundwater, Matt Vaega Matt Duffie, Shaun Stevenson
Reserves: Adrian Smith, Karl Tuinukuafe, Sione Mafileo, Shane Neville, Hapakuki Moala-Liavaa, Lewis Gjaltema, Daniel Hilton-Jones, Todd Doolan