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Preview: North Harbour v Canterbury

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Sportal.co.nz     12 Oct 2013     Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 25; Canterbury 16, North Harbour 6, drawn 3.

LAST TIME: September 1, 2012 (Addington) – Canterbury 36-3 North Harbour.

MISSING IN ACTION: North Harbour coach Liam Barry has had the luxury of naming a relatively unchanged lineup for Saturday's clash.

For Canterbury, Joe Moody returns from a foot injury, while Nasi Manu returns to the No.8 jersey. Milford Keresoma's knee injury sees Rob Thompson get a chance on the wing.

FORM: North Harbour have been competitive in 2013 but their inability to capitalise on opportunities has really let them down. Whether it be poor execution or handling errors. It's disappointing for a side that have a genuine attacking dup in recent All Black Francis Saili and wing Nafi Tuitavake. In Greg Pleasants-Tate, James Parsons and Ben Afeaki the hosts have just as good a front row as many other teams in the competition. Their set piece has been relatively tight, but it's what they do afterwards that has cost them dearly.

Canterbury looked unbeatable until a few weeks ago. A 19-25 loss to Wellington was followed by a 72-7 mauling of Manawatu in their midweek clash of Round 7. They were found out, however, by an Auckland side desperate to end Canterbury's five-year-reign with the ITM Cup. Canterbury's 19-39 loss leaves them chasing second spot and a home semi-final.

WE THINK: It should be a relatively straight forward match for Canterbury, but with just under one in eight games being a draw there's the slimmest of chances that this game could be close.

Not since 2009 have North Harbour tasted victory against Canterbury. That run looks set to continue on Saturday as they come up against the five-time victors who are desperate to have home-town support for another week.

Canterbury by 20.

TEAMS:
North Harbour: 1. Greg Pleasants Tate, 2. James Parsons (c), 3. Ben Afeaki, 4. Brandon Nansen, 5. Irwin Finau, 6. Jordan Manihera, 7. Zak Judge, 8. Vili Fihaki, 9. Bryn Hall, 10. Codey Rei, 11. Jona Tuitoga, 12. Tua Saseve, 13. Francis Saili, 14. Nafi Tuitavake, 15. James Semple.

Reerves: 16. Ray Niuia, 17. Ropate Rinakama, 18. Josh Olsen, 19. Nepia Fox Matamua, 20. Brenton Helleur, 21. Jon Elrick, 22. Michael Little.

Canterbury: 1. Joe Moody, 2. Corey Flynn, 3. Nepo Laulala, 4. Joel Everson, 5. Luke Katene, 6. Luke Whitelock, 7. George Whitelock (c), 8. Nasi Manu, 9. Andy Ellis, 10. Tyler Bleyendaal, 11. Rob Thompson, 12. Ryan Crotty, 13. Adam Whitelock, 14. Patrick Osborne, 15. Johnny McNicholl.

Subsitutes: 16. Ben Funnell, 17. Paea Fa'anunu, 18. Jordan Taufua, 19. Jed Brown, 20. Willi Heinz, 21. Richie Mo;unga, 22. Tom Taylor.