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Championship preview: Waikato v Southland (RS)

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Friday, September 28, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

Match details: Saturday September 29, 2.35pm at FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown (Canterbury)
Played: 34 (1953-2015)
Wins: Waikato 24, Southland 9, Drawn 1
Last match: Waikato 30 Southland 25 (September 10, 2015, crossover)


TALE OF THE TAPE

These two proud unions meet for the first time in three seasons, having played in different divisions until now.

Waikato comes into this one in sizzling form, having arrested a three-game losing streak with four clinical wins, including nicking the Shield off Taranaki.

Mooloos opensider Mitch Jacobson has made 105 tackles this season, the first man in the 2018 competition to raise the ton in this statistical category. He is a key cog in a Waikato pack that has found its mojo and is delivering quality ball to a hungry, skilled backline.

Southland is at the foot of the Championship table, but was competitive in the defeat at Northland last week. The 82 percent goalkicking ratio is the best in Mitre 10 Cup, but the Stags have crossed for just 14 tries in six games.
 
QUICK TAP: MANAWATU DEFY HISTORY FOR WIN


JUICY MATCH-UP

Stags captain James Wilson moves out to centre, bringing all his 35 years and more than 70 games’ worth of experience to the Southland midfield.

He marks the 19-year-old Waikato young gun Quinn Tupaea, who has shown some classy touches in an impressive debut Mitre 10 Cup season.

Wilson will be hoping for some decent ball so he can cut some capers in midfield, while Tupaea has shown he needs little space to bust holes.

Buckle up for this mouth-watering No 13 match-up, even if the one-out defences may mean they do not often clash head to head.


SHIELD FEVER

This is the Mooloos’ second Shield defence since tipping over Taranaki on September 9.

Waikato is the third most successful Shield union, behind Auckland and Canterbury, so the fans and players understand fully what the Log o’ Wood means.

Southland did not see the Shield between 1959 and 2009 and then came two well merited and unexpected wins, both in Christchurch, in 2009 and 2011. James Wilson is the sole survivor from the latter challenge, scoring 17 points as the Stags upset Canterbury 22-19. Then followed two successful defences before the Shield was relinquished, 15-12, to Taranaki.

Victory to Southland here would represent a monumental upset, given the Stags have not won since 2016.
THE SCOOP

Waikato coach Jono Gibbes has been unafraid to make changes, and has some serious firepower to bring off the bench, including dynamic hooker and equal top tryscorers Samisoni Taukei’aho, Wallaby prop Toby Smith and utility Matty Lansdown.

Southland will need to match the Waikato pack if James Wilson and Broc Hooper are to have any chance of controlling the tempo and options.

Watch for Jordan Bunce, son of Frank Bunce, to show his smooth touches from fullback for the home team. If he does, that already stressed Stags’ defensive line will be under more strain.


TEAMS

Waikato:
Jordan Bunce, Tyler Campbell, Quinn Tupaea, Dwayne Sweeney (c), Sevu Reece, Fletcher Smith, Jack Stratton, Murray Iti, Mitch Jacobson, Adam Burn, James Tucker, Tim Bond, Joshua Iosefa-Scott, Sekope Lopeti-Moli, Ayden Johnstone
Reserves: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Toby Smith, Sosaia Fale, Laghlan McWhannell, Jono Armstrong, Raniera Takarangi, Matty Lansdown, Pepesana Patafilo

Southland: Tauasosi Tuimavave, Isaac Te Tamaki, James Wilson (c), Raymond Nu’u, Lewis Ormond, Broc Hooper, Jay Renton, Bill Fukofuka, Phil Halder, Tony Lamborn, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Ben Fotheringham, Morgan Mitchell, Jesse MacDonald, Shaun Stodart
Reserves: Andrew Ready, Ethan de Groot, Chris Apoua, Raymond Tatafu, Jack Capil, Nico Costa, Tayler Adams, Matt Johnson