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Preview: North Harbour v Manawatu


Manawatu, who are top of the ITM Cup Championship table, host North Harbour, the bottom side in the same division, as the fifth week of the 2014 season continues at QBE Stadium.

Friday 12 September, 6.05pm at QBE Stadium, North Harbour

Played: 15, 1986–2013
Manawatu wins: 4 | North Harbour wins: 11

Squad update: Harbour head coach Steve Jackson has made nine changes to a team still searching for their maiden win, and injuries have led to Nic Mayhew and Sione Mafileo being bracketed to start at tighthead prop.

There is a rejigged back row, with Jim Tuivaiti and Irwin Finau coming in at number eight and blindside respectively.

Out wide there are four changes, with Daniel Halangahu coming in at first five-eighth, while Blues Investec Super Rugby player Pita Ahki moves into second five-eighth from centre. Matt Vaega and Luke Devcich come in at centre and left wing, with the former making his debut for the union.

Tom Hughes gets a start with the 21-year-old impressing last week, and the big lock is joined by a new front row, with Rob Foreman in at hooker for his 94th match, while Chris Eves and Hubert Buydens will play at tighthead and loosehead.

The impressive Turbos backline, carving a name out for themselves as one of the most dangerous in the competition, remains unchanged.

Form: Manawatu are top of the ITM Cup Championship table and deservedly so, winning four of their five matches so far, with their 26-10 win over Counties their second Premiership scalp of the campaign.

Traditionally the Turbos have struggled against Harbour, but on recent form the Turbos would be confident of keeping their record of having not lost to their rivals since 2010.

Harbour need a victory and desperately, one of two teams alongside Wellington still to record a victory this season.

The side has only three home matches left this season, this one, with Canterbury and Hawke’s Bay still to visit, so a performance in front of the fans will be desired by a competitive team that has collected three losing bonus points.

Last match: Manawatu 15 – 12  North Harbour , 08.09.13 in Palmerston North (ITMC)

Last North Harbour win: North Harbour 44 – 30 Manawatu, 26.09.10 in Albany (ITMC)

Biggest Manawatu score: 32 (32-21), 02.08.11 in Palmerston North (ITMC)

Biggest North Harbour score: 63 (63–4), 13.08.88 in Takapuna (NPC)

Biggest differential: North Harbour by 59 (63–4), 13.08.88 in Takapuna (NPC)

Key players: Manawatu are a youthful team and are thriving with a match philosophy that suits their age, five members of the side – Tom Hughes, Nick Grogan, Jason Emery, Jade Te Rure and Jamie Booth – played for the Palmerston North Boys’ High School 1st XV in 2011.

Otere Black and Booth are again preferred at nine and ten respectively, despite being pressured by reserves halves Te Rure and Kayne Hammington.

With James Parson and Hayden Triggs in the Harbour pack, the hosts could have an edge up front, but captain Bryn Hall and the Massey connection of Ahki and David Raikuna need to fire some shots of the side is to achieve win number one for 2014.



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