Preview: Southland v Manawatu

Getty Images     18 Sep 2015     Getty Images

Form: Southland started their campaign with a 23-23 draw with Auckland and followed that up with a precious 27-18 away win over Northland. Southland’s campaign has stalled somewhat since, losing their next four games to Bay of Plenty (10-26), North Harbour (25-26), Wellington (3-53) and Waikato (25-30). But as a wise man once said, Southland always come right after lambing season. Will a victory against Manawatu help the southerners find some late-season form?

Manawatu have illustrated their ability to score tries in defeat to some hefty opponents, including Tasman (21-41) and Auckland (28-45). They have also registered losses to Waikato (21-28) and Canterbury (7-57). Manawatu finally got on the board with an emphatic 42-17 win over Northland last week.

Interestingly, Manawatu have converted every one of their 22 tries they’ve scored so far this season and have yet to score a penalty. One surprising statistic – Manawatu have missed the most tackles so far in the 2015 season with 110, 13 ahead of Bay of Plenty.

Played: 43

Wins: Southland 17, Manawatu 23

Draws: 3

Last Match: 2014 Championship semi-final: Manawatu 23 Southland 18

SOUTHLAND: 1.Jamie Mackintosh (captain), 2.Brayden Mitchell, 3.Guy Millar, 4.Josh Bekhuis, 5.Joel Everson, 6.Bill Fukofuka, 7.Tim Boys, 8.Elliot Dixon, 9.Liam Howley, 10.Lima Sopoaga, 11.Lolohea Loco, 12.Willis Halaholo, 13.Kieran Moffat, 14.Mike Molloy, 15.Tauasosi Tuimavave.

Reserves:16.Dillan Halaholo, 17.Reuben Northover, 18.Morgan Mitchell, 19.Michael Stewart, 20.Alex Taylor, 21.Scott Eade, 22.James Schrader, 23.Junior Ngaluafe.

MANAWATU TURBOS: 1.Fraser Armstrong, 2.Nick Grogan, 3.Michael Alaalatoa, 4.Fraser Stone, 5.Valentino Mapapalangi, 6.Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 7.Callum Gibbins (captain), 8.Antonio Kirikiri, 9.Toby Morland, 10.Otere Black, 11.Nathan Tudreu, 12.Hamish Northcott, 13.Jason Emery, 14.Ambrose Curtis, 15.Semisi Masirewa.

Reserves: 16.Rob Foreman, 17.Hakarangi Tichborne, 18.Tim Cadwallader, 19.Tom Parsons, 20.James Oliver, 21.Jamie Booth, 22.Jaxon Tagavaitau, 23.Newton Tudreu.

Squad Update: Brayden Mitchell returns from a rib injury for Southland, relegating Dillan Halaholo to the bench in the process. He is joined in the starting XV with three other returnees – Bill Fukofuka, Lolohea Loco and Tauasosi Tuimavave (hamstring injury).

The luxury of an unchanged lineup means there are no fresh injury worries for Manawatu coach Jason O’Halloran. The Turbos are boosted by the return of Newton Tudreu (knee injury), James Oliver (concussion) and Jamie Booth (leg injury). The only player making the most of the injury ward is Adrian Barone, and his spot on the bench is taken up by hopeful debutant Hakarangi Tichborne.

Key Players: Jamie Mackintosh continues to lead from the front for the Stags, and Brayden Mitchell’s return at hooker should bolster an already imposing forward pack containing the likes of the tackle-hungry Tim Boys and the Highlanders’ best player of the Super Rugby final, Elliot Dixon. Lima Sopoaga will be looking to continue illustrating his All Black potential, and with the likes of the imposing Willis Halaholo at second five-eighths, the hosts aren’t without a number of attacking weapons.

Manawatu’s goalkicking has been immaculate in 2015, and Otere Black has been at the heart of the side’s Championship push. Hamish Northcott’s switch to second five-eighths could prove a masterstroke from O’Halloran with dynamic centre Jason Emery on his outside. Semisi Masirewa’s tryscoring potency will see him targeted by the Southland defence.