Crossover preview: Waikato v North Harbour

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Friday, August 24, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

Match details: Saturday August 25, 4.35pm at FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
Referee: Cam Stone (Taranaki)

Played: 36 (1985-2017)
Wins: Waikato 23, North Harbour 11, Drawn 2
Last match: North Harbour 13 Waikato 11 (October 8, 2017, Premiership)


These two provinces, once Chiefs partners in the nascent days of Super Rugby, have played out some epics since 1985, none more so than in 1986 when a last minute try at the old Rugby Park took Waikato back to NPC first division, at the expense of its opponent that day, North Harbour.

Waikato will be aiming to get back in the winner’s circle on its home patch, having dropped its last four at this venue. Jono Gibbes will be ramming home the message that this ground must again become a fortress for the Mooloos.

North Harbour will want to get plenty of ball in the hands of left wing Tevita Li, who has notched 12 tries in his last nine outings and has racked up 27 in all in his 46 games for the union.


New Waikato head coach Jono Gibbes knows a home win is vital:

“We are excited to have our first opportunity to play in front of our home crowd. Preparation for this match has been good and the energy in the team is high after a tough first-up loss.

“It is going to be a tough challenge this weekend going up against a well-drilled Premiership team like North Harbour that made the top four last year, but we believe the team is up for this challenge.”


There are any number of tantalising match-ups on show, be it Fletcher Smith versus Shaun Stevenson at fullback, the latter up against his old province, or the dynamic Sevu Reece marking All Black Matt Duffie on the wing.

How about Bryn Hall against his No 3 at the Crusaders, Jack Stratton, or the bruising No 8s Jordan Manihera against Hapakuki Moala-Liava’a? James Tucker will seek to outdo Ben Nee-Nee in the second row stakes. James Parsons will try and use his experience to nullify the talented young Waikato rake Samisoni Taukei’aho.

If North Harbour can bring the fluency between its pack and fleet-footed backline, then Waikato will be stretched. But the Mooloos are fielding a talented roster of their own, so this may just be as close as the 13-11 encounter in 2017, when Duffie finished a try in the corner in spectacular style.

Fletcher Smith, Declan O’Donnell, Quinn Tupaea, Dwayne Sweeney (c), Sevu Reece, Matty Lansdown, Jack Stratton, Jordan Manihera, Mitch Jacobson, Adam Burn, James Tucker, Tim Bond, Joshua Iosefa-Scott, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ayden Johnstone
Reserves: Mike Mayhew, Haereiti Hetet, Sosaia Fale, Laghlan McWhannell, Jono Armstrong, Kylem O’Donnell, Bailyn Sullivan, Tyler Campbell

North Harbour: Shaun Stevenson, Matt Duffie (c), James Dargaville, Harrison Groundwater, Tevita Li, Bryn Gatland, Bryn Hall, Hapakuki Moala-Liava’a, Dillon Hunt, Murphy Taramai, Ben Nee-Nee, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Sione Mafileo, James Parsons (c), Nic Mayhew
Reserves: Luteru Tolai, Mike Tamoaieta, Chris Eves, Glenn Preston, Jacob Pierce, Lewis Gjaltema, Loketi Manu, Mark Telea