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Preview: Tasman v Taranaki

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Mitre10Cup.co.nz     01 Sep 2016     Getty Images

For Tasman, a victory in a rematch of the 2014 Premiership final could be the rejuvenation their 2016 campaign needs.

DATE AND TIME: Tasman v Taranaki, Trafalgar Park, Nelson, September 3, 2.35pm
HEAD TO HEAD: 12
WINS: Tasman 3, Taranaki 9
LAST TIME: Taranaki 17, Tasman 35 – 2015 in New Plymouth

FORM: Tasman have one win and a loss, their most recent result a 14-45 loss to Canterbury in Christchurch. While that result probably wouldn’t surprise many, they were fortunate to scrape past Waikato (24-19) in their opening round. While Hawke’s Bay remain at the bottom of the ladder after three rounds irrespective of the result, the Makos will be hoping to keep pace with the Premiership front runners. Taranaki have started with two wins, and have nine out of 10 possible competition points to sit a solitary point behind Canterbury. Taranaki started with a 30-22 win in Tauranga against Bay of Plenty, before securing a mammoth 55-28 win after having to come from behind.

TEAMS
Tasman: 1. Tim Perry, 2. Andrew Makalio, 3. Ross Geldenhuys, 4. Shannon Frizell, 5. Quinten Strange, 6. Pete Samu, 7. Shane Christie (captain), 8. Vernon Fredericks, 9. Finlay Christie, 10. Marty Banks, 11. James Lowe, 12. Alex Nankivell, 13. Kieron Fonotia, 14. Tima Faingaanuku, 15. Mitchell Hunt.

Reserves: 16. Jesse MacDonald, 17. Kane Hames, 18. Blair Prinsep, 19. Jeff Lepa, 20. Tevita Koloamatagi, 21. Billy Guyton, 22. Trael Joass, 23. Jesse Pitman-Joass.

Taranaki: 1. Mitchell Graham, 2. Rhys Marshall, 3. Ryan Cocker, 4. Ben Matwijow, 5. Leon Power, 6. Mitchell Croswell (captain), 7. Berny Hall, 8. Iopu Iopu-Aso, 9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 10. Stephen Perofeta, 11. Manasa Mataele, 12. Sean Wainui, 13. Seta Tamanivalu, 14. Beaudein Waaka, 15. Marty McKenzie.

Reserves: 16. Sione Lea, 17. Reuben O'Neill, 18. Mike Kainga, 19. Mitchell Brown, 20. Toa Halafihi, 21. Kylem O'Donnell, 22. Johnny Fa’auli, 23. Declan O'Donnell.

SQUAD UPDATE: Tasman have lost a couple of key players in midfielder David Havili and flanker Shannon Frizell. Havili came off the field with a concussion, while Frizell's leg injury could spell a lengthy period on the sidelines. Peter Samu also picked up an elbow injury, but has shaken it off to be named in the No.6 jersey. On the plus side, Marty Banks' elevation to the starting first five-eighth is a big lift for the Makos, who have been getting plenty of service at the breakdown from impressive halfback Finlay Christie. Taranaki welcome back Ryan Cocker to tighthead prop after coming back from knee surgery in place of Mike Kainga, who drops to the bench. Despite a hip injury to Mitchell Graham last week, he retains his spot at loosehead prop. Johnny Fa'auli also returns to the matchday squad overcoming the concussion protocols that saw him miss the Canterbury match. Charlie Ngatai continues to be sidelined and there has been no word on whether he will make a return this season.

KEY PLAYERS: Christie's combination with Banks will be one to keep an eye on. Alex Nankivell at second five-eighths has been doing a stirling job for the hosts, as has wing Tima Faingaanuku. However, they run into a side running hot after scoring 55 points in their last game. One of the standouts in that game was fullback Marty McKenzie, who scored 25 points to blow the Magpies out of the water. Another standout has been Iopu Iopu-Aso, the No.8 proving his best on attack to help kickstart an at-times sluggish Bulls outfit. Hard working flanker Berny Hall and former Reds lock Ben Matwijow have also been two leaders up front for the Taranaki forward pack.