Championship preview: Waikato v Otago (RS)

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Friday, October 12, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

Match details: Saturday October 13, 5.05pm at FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (North Harbour)
Played: 52 (1935-2014)
Wins: Waikato 29, Otago 22, Drawn 1
Last match: Otago 38 Waikato 7 (September 21, 2014, crossover)


Waikato cannot surrender its top billing for the Championship semifinals, so this is just about locking the Ranfurly Shield away for the summer. Motivation enough, one would think for the Mooloos to be at full noise.

They were at full noise last weekend in Whangarei, hammering the Taniwha 71-28, and are gunning for consecutive win No 7, making them, comfortably, the form team of the Mitre 10 Cup.

Otago has been competitive for much of the season, with five wins, but came a cropper to the tune of 47-21 to Tasman last Sunday. The Razorbacks have, however, won their last two against Waikato.

Otago skipper Michael Collins was the sole survivor, at centre, when his union won 26-19 on this ground five years to annex the Shield for the first time since 1957. What he would give for a similar result on Saturday evening.


The battle of the No 8s should be an absorbing one.

In the Waikato corner, we have muscular Jordan Manihera, pushing hard for a Super Rugby contract. The former North Harbour loosie can get his side go-forward ball and can clear out powerfully at ruck time.

His Otago opposite Dylan Nel has enjoyed a fine season for the Razorbacks. Only two other players have carried more than his 102 times. He is a work-horse.

The forwards clash will be won on incremental inches made up the middle. It will be tough and attritional.

Josh Ioane and Fletcher Smith is an enticing No 10s match-up. The latter played 34 games for Otago and is now, in Waikato colours, probably the form first five in the Mitre 10 Cup.

Five of the top 10 Mitre 10 Cup tryscorers come from these two teams, though Sevu Reece is missing from this Mooloos line-up.

So one would deduce that both teams like to spread the ball. Waikato, however, has scored 14 more tries (52 to 38) than the southerners, helped by its demolition of Northland last weekend.

The bad news for home fans is that Sevu Reece is out, but that is partially offset by the return of Declan O’Donnell via the bench. Toby Smith slots back into the No 1 jersey to look after Hisa Sasagi in the scrums.

Otago can call on real impact off the bench via flanker James Lentjes and outside back Vilimoni Koroi, not to mention Naulia Dawai.

Get along early for the 2.30pm Farah Palmer Cup Premiership semifinal clash between Waikato and Counties Manukau.


Matty Lansdown, Bailyn Sullivan, Quinn Tupaea, Dwayne Sweeney (c), Tyler Campbell, Fletcher Smith, Jack Stratton, Jordan Manihera, Mitch Jacobson, James Tucker, Laghlan McWhannell, Tim Bond, Joshua Iosefa-Scott, Samisoni Tauke’iaho, Toby Smith
Reserves: Sekope Lopeti-Moli, Ayden Johnstone, Sosaia Fale, Adam Burn, Jono Armstrong, Raniera Takarangi, Pepesana Patafilo, Declan O’Donnell

Otago: Michael Collins (c), Mitchell Scott, Matt Faddes, Sio Tomkinson, Jona Nareki, Josh Ioane, Kurt Hammer, Dylan Nel, Slade McDowall, Joketani Koroi, Josh Dickson, Tom Rowe, Hisa Sasagi, Seko Pole, Jonah Aoina
Reserves: Richard Jackson, Tom Hill, George Bower, Sione Misiloi, Naulia Dawai, James Lentjes, Josh Renton, Vilimoni Koroi