Premiership preview: Tasman v Canterbury
Thursday, August 16, 2018 Campbell Burnes Getty Images
Played: 15 (2007-17)
Wins: Canterbury 11, Tasman 4
Last match: Canterbury 35 Tasman 13 (October 28, 2017, Premiership final)
TALE OF THE TAPE
The Mako, having dropped the S from their moniker, are always tough to beat at home, but Canterbury has historically found it easier than most.
The defending Premiership champs have won their last five games against Tasman by an average margin of 25 points, including a 39-0 cleanout in the regular season in Nelson.
While logic would suggest Canterbury, with slightly more front-line Crusaders, would struggle to hit the high notes just 13 days after a Super Rugby triumph, that was not an issue in 2017. However, the Mako pack looks no-nonsense and will have little problem winning its own ball. The home side has won nine out of the last 10 at home, and four straight.
QUICK TAP: FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH: CANTERBURY
The Mako may look to a dynamic young loose forward loaned from Auckland, Sione Havili. The opensider was the 2016 Bronze Boot winner in the trans-Tasman schools test and was awarded the DJ Graham Award for player of the tournament at the 2017 Jock Hobbs Memorial National Under 19 tournament. He duly won Auckland Rugby’s Sir Fred Allen Supreme Award, made two appearances for the union and debuted for the Blues in 2018.
In the No 23 jersey for Canterbury is Ngane Punivai, who made one appearance last season in the Shield defence against Wanganui. After a stellar schools career with Christ’s College, Punivai, a threequarter, could do some damage to a tiring defensive line.
How big a bite will these 5? players have for @TasmanMako this season? ??
STORY ?? https://t.co/ihOJcdONpd#Ours pic.twitter.com/c7fpJ6ijcI— Mitre 10 Cup (@Mitre10Cup) August 12, 2018
There is no Shannon Frizell for the Mako nor George Bridge for Canterbury, but there is enough talent on show to suggest there may be some sparkling tries in the offing.
Mako captain David Havili will lead from midfield after All Blacks duty removed him from much of the 2017 action. Many eyes will be on new signing on the wing, Solomon Alaimalo, after a superb Super Rugby campaign with the Chiefs. Wyatt Crockett should be fresh after missing the last two Crusaders games and he will mark another seasoned old prop in Chris King.
Canterbury may have a trump card or two in the form of its Kilted Kiwi midfielder Phil Burleigh, while co-captain Whetu Douglas, a former NZ Universities rep, is a sound buy and will be more than just a fill-in for Luke Whitelock.
Despite a poor recent record against Canterbury, Tasman will fancy its chances in Blenheim and will be desperate to make an early statement about its title aspirations. This could be very close.
Tasman Mako: Will Jordan, Jamie Spowart, Levi Aumua, David Havili (c), Solomon Alaimalo, Mitch Hunt, Jack Grooby, Vernon Fredericks, Jed Brown, Ethan Blackadder, Paripari Parkinson, Quinten Strange, Tyrel Lomax, Andrew Makalio, Wyatt Crockett
Reserves: Ray Niuia, Ryan Coxon, Blair Prinsep, Michael Curry, Sione Havili, Ben Finau, Tim O’Malley
Canterbury: Josh McKay, Caleb Makene, Sam Beard, Phil Burleigh, Braydon Ennor, Brett Cameron, Mitch Drummond (c), Whetu Douglas (c), Tom Christie, Tom Sanders, Mitch Dunshea, Luke Romano, Chris King, Nathan Vella, Alex Hodgman
Reserves: Greg Pleasants-Tate, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Sef Fa’agase, Hamish Dalzell, Reed Prinsep, Conor Collins, Filimoni Waqainabete, Ngane Punivai
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