The Makos are fast emerging as the darlings of the ITM Cup rugby, firmly entrenched in the top four of the Premiership, and a clear candidate for the title, but they host an exciting Waikato team that got their campaign back on track in Albany on Saturday.
Tasman ($1.30) v ($3.30) Waikato
6:05pm | Bet Now
Tasman hit a minor road bump last week when they were held to a draw by Auckland but back on home territory tonight they should be capable of regaining winning form. Waikato are their opponents and they are not an easy side to get a line on after some erratic form. At their second last start they were taken to the cleaners by an impressive Taranaki but then bounced back to head North Harbour. Tasman remain unbeaten so far this season and it would surprise if that changes tonight.
Friday 5 September, 6.05pm at Trafalgar Park, Nelson
Played: 7, 2007-2013
Waikato wins: 4 | Tasman wins: 3
Last match: Tasman 64 – 28 Waikato , 02.10.13 in Nelson (ITMC)
Last Waikato win: Waikato 20 – 19 Tasman , 27.09.12 in Hamilton (ITMC)
Biggest Waikato score: 35 (35-6), 29.07.11 in Hamilton (ITMC)
Biggest Tasman score: 64 (64-28), 02.10.13 in Nelson (ITMC)
Biggest differential: Tasman by 36 (64-28), 02.10.13 in Nelson (ITMC)
Squad update: Coach Kieran Keane admitted that his team was pretty “dented” after a physical match against Auckland, and while some fresh blood has been injected into the team, the side otherwise remains intact – good reward for some solid form from the starting squad.
Prop Tim Perry and Lock Alex Ainley come into the forward pack, replacing Ross Geldenhuys (injury) and Joe Wheeler (benched). Veteran former All Blacks halfback Jimmy Cowan retains the number nine jersey while there are two changes out wide, with James Lowe starting on the left wing, while Robbie Malneek shifts to fullback.
The Mooloo have made four changes, with Josh Hohneck, Brayden Mitchell and Marty Holah coming into the forward pack.
Sacred Heart College product and 21-year-old Jordan Payne is the only change in the backline, with the Chiefs back starting at centre.
Form: Tasman are unbeaten, and if Steven Luatua hadn’t managed to breach the impressive Makos defence in the 60th minute, then the newly promoted side may have been sitting alongside Canterbury on top of the table.
If anything, while Waikato are a side with more history than the fledging Tasman side, the budding rivalry has already tipped towards the freshmen, with the Makos winning 64-28 in the same meeting last year.
The Mooloo have two wins from four outings, and despite the even ledger seem to be on an upward curve after some canny recruitment ensuring there is a lethal edge about this youthful team.
Wins against North Harbour and Wellington were well deserved, but Waikato’s losses to Canterbury and Taranaki will have the troops eager to make a stand against a fellow Premiership outfit.
Key players: Quentin MacDonald and Tim Perry have been the foundation of an underrated pack that has been competitive throughout, even against the illustrious Canterbury and Taranaki forward units.
Yet the Makos have unashamedly relied on the boot of Marty Banks, who has continued his ITM Cup reputation of being an absolute metronome.
Marty Holah, playing his 87th game for Waikato, will lead a pack that cannot even compile 70 caps between the remaining seven players.
Damian McKenzie continues to hone his craft at first five-eighth, while Joe Webber, Anton Lienert-Brown and captain Brad Weber form a talented if not slightly raw attacking backline.
Tasman: 15 Robbie Malneek, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Tom Marshall, 11 James Lowe, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Shane Christie, 6 Pete Samu, 5 Alex Ainley, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Ciua Halanukonuka, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Jesse MacDonald, 17 Reuben Northover, 18 Joe Wheeler, 19 Tevita Koloamatangi, 20 Billy Guyton, 21 Rohan Saifoloi, 22 David Havili.
Waikato: 15 Albert Nikoro, 14 Declan O’Donnell, 13 Jordan Payne, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Joe Webber, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (capt), 8 Adam Burn, 7 Marty Holah, 6 Whetu Douglas, 5 Jacob Skeen, 4 Luke Katene, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Loni Uhila.
Replacements: 16 Harry Jones, 17 James McGougan, 18 Nick Ross, 19 Zane Kapeli, 20 Harrison Levien, 21 Wharenui Hawera, 22 Regan Ware
Date: Friday, September 5
Kick-off: 18:05 local (07:05 BST, 06:05 GMT)
Venue: Trafalgar Park, Nelson
Referee: Kane McBride