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Preview: Otago v Hawke's Bay

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Sportal.co.nz     31 Aug 2013     Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played: 51, Otago 33, Hawke's Bay 17, Drawn 1

LAST TIME: Otago 15 lost to Hawke's Bay 21, at McLean Park, 2012

WALKING WOUNDED: Fullback Tony Ensor's shoulder injury suffered against Waikato last week has resulted in Peter Breen moving from second five-eighths to the rearguard. Michael Collins has moved in a spot to second five-eighths with Jayden Spence coming in at centre while Buxton Popoali'i is on the left wing in place of Fa'asiu Fuatai. Karl Lowe has missed out on the Hawke's Bay side after being unable to get over a rib injury while Andrew Horrell is still suffering the effects of a knee injury sustained in the Super Rugby final.

FORM: Otago had made a good start to the season even before their lifting of the Shield. Their win over Bay of Plenty was evidence of emerging steel in the side and that was borne out in the victory in Hamilton. There has been a reliance on Hayden Parker's goal-kicking boot but there is nothing wrong in securing points in that manner, especially in Shield rugby. Hawke's Bay were victims of poor preparation in their loss to Bay of Plenty and if they make as many mistakes again Otago's job will be much easier. The determination Otago showed in denying Waikato a come-from-behind win was outstanding and suggests there is the required defensive attitude in the side and that will be crucial to hold off what is likely to be a bold challenge from Hawke's Bay.

WE THINK: Hawke's Bay are equipped with a fine backline starting with halfback Alby Mathewson, the hard-nosed Richard Buckman and the speedy members of the rearguard Zac Guildford, Telusa Veainu and Gillies Kaka. All Blacks squad member Ben Franks has only been named on the bench. But the knowledge that they are carrying so much hope for what will be a large home crowd should be enough to see Otago hold the Shield. Otago by 5.
TEAMS:
Otago: 1.Craig Millar, 2.Liam Coltman, 3.Scott Manson, 4.Tom Donnelly, 5.Tom Franklin, 6.Gareth Evans, 7.Lee Allan, 8.Paul Grant (captain), 9.Fumiaki Tanaka, 10.Hayden Parker, 11.Buxton Popoali'i, 12.Michael Collins, 13.Jayden Spence, 14.Kieran Moffat, 15.Peter Breen.

Replacements: 16.Sam Anderson-Heather, 17.Tama Tuirirangi, 18.Charlie O'Connell, 19.TJ Ione, 20.Willis Scott, 21.Josh Renton, 22. Fa'aisu Fuatai.

Hawke's Bay : 1.Brendon Edmonds, 2.Ged Robinson, 3.Max Hahiff, 4.Michael Allardice, 5.Mark Abbott, 6.Mike Coman (captain), 7.Brendon O'Connor, 8.Mark Atkins, 9.Alby Mathewson, 10.Ihaia West, 11.Zac Guildford, 12.Adam Bradey, 13.Richard Buckman, 14.Telusa Veainu, 15.Gillies Kaka.

Replacements: 16.Ash Dixon, 17.Ben Franks, 18.Trent Boswell-Wakefield, 19.Tony Lamborn, 20.Chris Eaton, 21.Regis Lespinas, 22.Trinity Spooner-Neera.

Referee: Mike Fraser