Tasman are in the middle of a dream run, with the newly promoted Makos showing they are right at home in the ITM Cup Premiership, while Southland, who looked to be struggling, made a statement with an impressive victory over the Taniwha.
Wednesday 17 September, 7.35pm at Rugby Park, Invercargill
Played: 6, 2006-2013
Tasman wins: 2 | Southland wins: 4
Squad update: Tasman centre Tom Marshall will miss this clash with a shoulder injury, resulting in a series of positional switches.
Kieron Fonotia moves into second five-eighth from centre, while wing Bryce Heem shifts into the midfield. The other change in the backline sees Mitchell Scott start on the outside flanks.
Up front the return of captain and flanker Shane Christie will be a big boost for the home team, after coach Kieran Keane decided to rest 29-year-old back row forward last round.
The biggest selection news for the visitors comes from the naming of veteran All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore, who effectively comes out of retirement to be selected on the Stags bench.
Talemaitoga Tuapai has been rested for this match, meaning that Dillan Halaholo will start at hooker, one of four changes for the match.
Tighthead prop Tony Keresoma will make his ITM Cup debut while Michael Stewart comes into the second row at the expense of Michael Fatialofa.
Form: Southland’s season looked to be hanging by a thread after back-to-back losses against Taranaki and Otago, but their 36-34 victory over the inform Taniwha showed that the Stags still have plenty to offer in 2014.
Despite Southland dominating the head to head rivalry with four wins from six, the Southerners haven’t defeated the Makos since 2010.
There isn’t much to say about Tasman that their impressive run of results haven’t already proven, with three scalps, a draw against Auckland in Eden Park and a one-point loss to a powerful Taranaki team.
Victory will lock up third spot on the ITM Cup Premiership table for the Makos, which would continue what is already the most impressive start to a season for a newly promoted union.
Last match: Tasman 25 – 15 Southland , 17.08.13 in Invercargill (ITMC)
Last Southland win: Southland 21 -16 Tasman , 27.08.10 in Blenheim (ITMC)
Biggest Tasman score: 14 (14-23), 16.09.06 in Invercargill (ANZC RP)
Biggest Southland score: 41 (41-0, 10.10.09 in Invercargill (ANZC)
Biggest differential: Southland by 41 (41-0), 10.10.09 in Invercargill (ANZC)
Key players: Perhaps the signing of the season, Lima Sopoaga has been in strong form for the Stags, backed by some sparkle out wide notably Mark Jackman and new lad Keanu KahuKura.
However perhaps the best loose forward trio in the competition, with John Hardie, Tim Boys and Elliot Dixon among the hardest workers in the ITM Cup, will be critical to stop a Tasman team that thrives on fast ball.
Jimmy Cowan starts to partner Marty Banks in the halves for the Makos, while their new midfield of Fonotia and Heem has the potential to be explosive.
Especially if the pack continues to make a mockery of their absence of any internationals up front, Quentin MacDonald has been in stellar touch at rake, while the combination of Christie and Squire will need to be on song against a dangerous Stags breakdown attack.
Southland: 15 Junior Ngaluafe, 14 Lolohea Loco, 13 Mark Jackman, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Keanu Kahukura, 0 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Tayler Adams, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 Tim Boys, 6 John Hardie, 5 Michael Stewart, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Tony Keresoma, 2 Dillan Halaholo, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 JP Koen, 18 Michael Fatialofa, 19 Bill Fukofuka, 20 Scott Eade, 21 Jamie Verran, 22 Cardiff Vaega.
Tasman: 15 Robbie Malneek, 14 Mitch Scott, 13 Bryce Heem, 12 Kieron Fonotia, 11 James Lowe, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Shane Christie (c), 6 Pete Samu, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Jesse MacDonald, 17 Reuben Northover, 18 Tevita Cavubati, 19 Vernon Fredricks, 20 Billy Guyton, 21 Mike Wells, 22 David Havili
Date: Wednesday, September 17
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Venue: Rugby Park, Invercargill
Referee: Mike Fraser