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Air NZ Cup semi-final preview: Canterbury v Hawke's Bay

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Thursday, October 16, 2008    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

Canterbury, with most of its leading players available, should be favoured but the well-drilled Magpies will have plenty to say about that before the night's out.

VENUE & TIME: AMI Stadium, Christchurch, Saturday October 18, 19.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 50 – Canterbury 27, Hawke's Bay 21, drawn 2.

LAST TIME: September 27, 2007 (Christchurch) – Canterbury 31-7 Hawke's Bay (round nine).

WALKING WOUNDED: Canterbury has introduced a promising young flanker by the name of McCaw for this match in the only change to the run-on XV. Ti'i Paulo has been replaced on the bench by Steve Fualau after damaging his knee and Nasi Manu, who has been nursing a variety of injuries, replaces James Broadhurst. Hawke's Bay has made only one change and that's on the bench, with Mark Jackman replacing Daniel Waenga.

FORM: Canterbury turned in a dominant display against Tasman and was never threatened. The defence, once again, was excellent and seven scoring chances were taken down the other end with a minimum of fuss. Hawke's Bay looked capable of beating the world in a brilliant opening 40 against Waikato, scoring some of the season's best tries in a blitz that saw the halftime score 28-0. But that polished Bay team went missing for 30 minutes in the second spell and Waikato almost stole the game; only a 45m penalty into a tough breeze gave them enough space to wriggle over the line after an outstanding match.

WHO'S HOT: Canterbury has been given outstanding service by its loose trio all season and, with Richie McCaw back, that trio has only become stronger. The tight five has also been travelling well but need to be on the job against the very physical Magpies this week. Two young backs, Tim Bateman and James Paterson, are doing most things right in a polished Canterbury line. Hikawera Elliot has made every post a winner this season and his lineout throwing has allowed the Bay jumpers to post the season's best efficiency stats; they win over 80 percent of their own ball and only two have been ruled not straight in 11 matches. Jason Shoemark has been outstanding in midfield and Matt Berquist, aided by some excellent service from the set pieces, looked as if he had not been away as he ran efficiently and kicked superbly.

WE THINK: The one problem that has hampered Hawke's Bay all season is the inability to spend long periods in opposition territory, which is Canterbury's game in a nutshell. While the Magpies are playing some good footy and are devastating given room, we think Canterbury will squeeze the life out of them with defence and the ground game before taking a comfortable win.

TEAMS:

Canterbury: 1 – Wyatt Crockett, 2 – Corey Flynn, 3 – Greg Somerville, 4 – Michael Paterson, 5 – Isaac Ross, 6 – Hayden Hopgood, 7 – Richie McCaw, 8 – Kieran Read (captain), 9 – Andy Ellis, 10 – Colin Slade, 11 – James Paterson, 12 – Tim Bateman, 13 – Casey Laulala, 14 – Paul Williams, 15 – Scott Hamilton.

Reserves: 16 – Steve Fualau, 17 – Owen Franks, 18 – Nasi Manu, 19 – George Whitelock, 20 – Tyson Keats, 21 – Hamish Gard, 22 – Adam Whitelock.

Hawke's Bay: 1 – Faka'anaua Taumalolo, 2 - Hikawera Elliot, 3 – Anthony Perenise, 4 – Johan Snyman, 5 – Bryn Evans, 6 – Michael Johnson, 7 – Karl Lowe, 8 – George Naoupu, 9 – Danny Lee (captain), 10 – Matt Berquist, 11 - Zac Guildford, 12 – Sam Giddens, 13 – Jason Shoemark, 14 – Jason Kupa, 15 – Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16 – Ash Dixon, 17 – Josh Keys, 18 – Matt Egan, 19 – Pama Petia, 20 – Chris Eaton, 21 – Aayden Clarke, 22 – Mark Jackman.

REFEREE: Bryce Lawrence