Crossover preview: Southland v Auckland

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Tuesday, October 9, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

Match details: Wednesday October 10, 7.35pm at Rugby Park, Invercargill
Referee: James Doleman (Otago)
Played: 55 (1903-2017)
Wins: Auckland 44, Southland 8, Drawn 3
Last match: Auckland 27 Southland 17 (September 15, 2017, crossover)


Auckland might be in the middle of its ‘Storm Week,’ but there must be a thick layer of confidence through this group after a 7-1 season, already with four more wins than in the entire 2017 programme.

This time last year, Auckland would have lost if it had played like it did against Wellington for much of the game, but the visitors to the capital found a way to take the points. That resilience will be needed again, as coach Alama Ieremia has rung the changes with his rotation policy for this clash. The home defeat to Otago on September 28 came as a shock, but will serve to focus the minds.

Southland sits at 0-8, but came agonisingly close to ending this 19-match run of defeats against Bay of Plenty on Sunday. After just three days of recovery, if the Stags can put it all together on attack and tackle like demons for the full match, then they could be very competitive against the form team in the Premiership.

Last season at the same venue, Auckland made heavy weather of a 27-17 result, its only away win of the campaign. There are few survivors from either side suiting up this time round.


The loss of designated captain Blake Gibson to injury several rounds ago may have been seen as a big blow to Auckland hopes, but Dalton Papali’i has stepped up as if to the manor born.

Not yet 21 – he reaches this milestone on Thursday – Papali’i, who made four appearances off the bench last season, appears to be thriving under the tutelage of Filo Tiatia. He has made a Mitre 10 Cup high of 146 tackles, averaging more than one every four minutes. Yet there is much more to his game, as he brings the softer touches to an allround loose forward’s repertoire, including the ability to win lineout ball.

Coaches Dave Hewett of Southland and Alama Ieremia of Auckland have gone deep into their squads for this midweeker in the deep south.

The Stags have combined the Ormond brothers in the back three, while halfback Nico Costa, who played three games for Auckland in 2017, wins another start. Former USA Eagles international Tony Lamborn assumes the captain’s armband.

Auckland’s backline remains settled, but there is a whole new loose trio and front-row. Standby for Hoskins Sotutu at No 8, with Akira Ioane to the bench for the first time in 2018. Former NZ Under 20s No 7 Adrian Choat, a talented young footballer, will debut, while last year’s Auckland Under 19s skipper Waimana Reidlinger-Kapa suits up in the No 6 jersey.

There is again some serious firepower to come off the bench, including first-choice hooker Robbie Abel, prop Marcel Renata, lock/loosie Evan Olmstead and wing Caleb Clarke. Halfback Desma Liaina could debut in the No 21 jersey.

Auckland, despite the plethora of changes, is odds-on to take a fifth straight away victory in the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup.

Lewis Ormond, Jackson Ormond, Aleki Morris-Lome, Matt Johnson, Rory van Vugt, Tayler Adams, Nico Costa, Bill Fukofuka, Phil Halder, Tony Lamborn (c), Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Brenton Howden, Chris Apoua, Andrew Ready, Shaun Stodart
Reserves: Jesse MacDonald, Joseph Walsh, Reuben Northover, Ray Tatafu, Viliami Tosi, Jay Renton, Broc Hooper, Ray Nu’u

Auckland: Jordan Trainor, Melani Nanai, Tumua Manu, TJ Faiane (c), Salesi Rayasi, Harry Plummer, Jonathan Ruru, Hoskins Sotutu, Adrian Choat, Waimana Reidlinger-Kapa, Fa’atiga Lemalu, Michael Fatialofa, Marco Fepuleai, Mike Sosene, Ezekiel Lindenmuth
Reserves: Robbie Abel, Jarred Adams, Marcel Renata, Evan Olmstead, Akira Ioane, Desma Liaina, Daniel Kirkpatrick, Caleb Clarke