PREVIEW: Canterbury v Auckland

Getty Images

Friday, September 14, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details: Canterbury v Auckland, Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch, September 16, 4.35pm
Played: 100
Won: Canterbury 48, Auckland 47, Draws 5
Last time: Canterbury 32-27 Auckland, October 13, 2017
Referee: Ben O'Keefe


Canterbury go into the game with only one loss, suffered in the first week of the competition 17-25 to Tasman in Nelson. Since then they have beaten Wellington 27-20, Bay of Plenty 31-19, Manawatu 34-23 and North Harbour 31-21. Auckland have enjoyed an unbeaten run, and they have to go back to 2013 to find a similar streak. They have beaten Counties Manukau 23-19, Northland 28-12, Waikato 35-17 and Tasman 36-10.


Four changes have been made to Canterbury's starting XV. Returning from injury are hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate, lock Luke Romano and centre Braydon Ennor. Phil Burleigh will start at second five-eighths with Sam Beard moving to the bench. Prop Alex Hodgman will earn his 50th provincial cap in the game having made his first-class debut in 2014. Canterbury will be looking to see if they have the key to unlock the Auckland defence which has missed only 14 tackles per game this year, the fewest of any team while their tackle success rate of 90 percent is the best in the competition. Reed Prinsep may be a factor, he likes scoring at home having scored in each of the last two games while also making 29 of 32 tackles in that time.


Patrick Tuipulotu's call-up to the All Blacks has resulted in Fa'atiga Lemalu gaining the starting locking berth with Jack Whetton. The only other change to the side sees wing Joe Ravouvou getting a start for Salesi Rayasi. Prop Ezekiel Lindenmuth is set to make his debut from the bench. Coach Alama Ieremia said he was pleased with the side sticking to their game plan against Tasman and adjusting to deny them anything to come back with. But Canterbury would be a different prospect. "We've grounded ourselves quickly and made sure we've done our homework and preparation. Canterbury are another step up though, so we have to flush last week and move on to this week," he said.


Canterbury have enjoyed a period of dominance over long-time rival Auckland, winning 12 of their last 13 games while Canterbury have also won 18 of their last 19 games at home.


Canterbury: 1.Alex Hodgman, 2.Greg Pleasants-Tate, 3.Sef Fa'agase, 4.Luke Romano, 5.Hamish Dalzell, 6.Reed Prinsep, 7.Tom Christie, 8.Whetukamokamo Douglas, 9.Mitch Drummond, 10.Brent Cameron, 11.Caleb Makene, 12.Phil Burleigh, 13.Braydon Ennor, 14.Josh McKay, 15.George Bridge.

Substitutes: 16.Brodie McAlister, 17.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18.Chris King, 19.Mitchell Dunshea, 20.Tom Sanders, 21.Connor Collins, 22.Sam Beard, 23.Ngane Punival.

Auckland: 1.Sam Prattley, 2.Robbie Abel, 3.Marcel Renata, 4.Fa'atiga Lemalu, 5.Jack Whetton, 6.Evan Olmstead, 7.Blake Gibson (captain), 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Jonathan Ruru, 10.Harry Plummer, 11.Joe Ravouvou, 12.TJ Faiane, 13.Tumua Manu, 14.Melani Nanai, 15.Jordan Trainor.

Substitutes: 16.Mike Sosene-Feagai, 17.Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 18.Marco Fepulea'i, 19.Hoskins Sotutu, 20.Dalton Papali'i, 21.Leon Fukofuka, 22.Jacob Umaga, 23.Tanielu Tele'a.