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Air NZ Cup Preview: Bay of Plenty v Southland

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Friday, October 10, 2008    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

They're evenly matched teams, so attention to detail will probably determine the outcome.

VENUE & TIME: Bay Park, Mt Maunganui, Saturday October 11, 19.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 29 – Bay of Plenty 17, Southland 11, drawn 1.

LAST TIME: September 25, 2008 (Mt Maunganui) – Bay of Plenty 24-22 Southland.

WALKING WOUNDED: Bay of Plenty has made one change from last week, returning Jason Hona to the starting lineup for Toby Arnold. Kevin Schuler has gone for a five-two bench split, so he's obviously anticipating a huge battle up front. Southland welcomes two players back; David Hall will start at No 8 and John Hardie, now recovered from a ankle injury, will be in the 22 although whether he starts depends on Tim Boys' fitness, as the openside is in doubt with a toe injury.

FORM: Neither team was particularly impressive last week as both lost to other top-five sides. Bay of Plenty eventually gave up seven tries to Hawke's Bay but the game was closer than that for a long time; the Magpies piled on four tries in the last quarter. Southland never got going against Canterbury and, to be fair, never really looked like breaching the Cantabs' brick-wall defence. In many ways they played the same sort of game as each other; neither team was fluent on attack and the defence, which was normally pretty solid, crumbled a few times and a missed tackle or two spelled trouble.

WHO'S HOT: Both teams fielded honest rather than hot performers last week. Nobody stood out in the Bay pack, although they went down fighting, and Tanerau Latimer will be one player looking for a big game this week, as he must be in the reckoning for an end-of-year tour place. Hawke's Bay did a good job of covering the danger men in the Steamers backline; Ruki Tipuna had no chance to shine and Nigel Hunt, who left the field early, was sorely missed. Southland could sing the same song; the pack tried hard but Canterbury shut them down and stopped Boys from being an influence in the loose. Southland needed to get Blair Stewart's accurate boot into the lineup, so Robbie Robinson switches back to fullback – where his attacking talents are nicely showcased but his defence can be exposed.

WE THINK: It's almost certain to be blowing at Bay Park, so whichever team uses the wind better will come out ahead. We think that team will be Bay of Plenty; they've got a couple more game-breakers and, in Mike Delany, one of the most accurate general-play kickers in the competition. Our tip is the Bay by 10, but it will be tough.

TEAMS:

Bay of Plenty: 1 – Joe Savage, 2 – John Pareanga, 3 – James McGougan, 4 – John Moore, 5 – Culum Retallick, 6 – Solomon King, 7 – Tanerau Latimer (captain), 8 – Colin Bourke, 9 – Ruki Tipuna, 10 – Mike Delany, 11 – Jason Hona, 12 – Nigel Hunt, 13 – Corey Aporo, 14 – Lance MacDonald, 15 – Zar Lawrence.

Reserves: 16 – Dean Elmiger, 17 – Matt Wallis, 18 – Josh Katene, 19 – Aiden Kuka, 20 – Luke Braid, 21 – Josh Hall, 22 – Toby Arnold.

Southland: 1 – Jamie Mackintosh (captain), 2 – Jason Rutledge, 3 – Chris King, 4 – Josh Bekhuis, 5 – Hoani MacDonald, 6 – Dion Bates, 7 – Tim Boys or John Hardie, 8 – David Hall, 9 – Jimmy Cowan, 10 – Blair Stewart, 11 – Pehi Te Whare, 12 – Jason Kawau, 13 – Matt Saunders, 14 – Mark Wells, 15 – Robbie Robinson.

Reserves: 16 – Matt Holloway, 17 –Fai Mika, 18 – Daniel Ramsay, 19 – Hardie or Joe Tuineau, 20 – Scott Cowan, 21 – Tane Puki, 22 – Willie Rickards.

REFEREE: Steve Walsh