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Preview: Tasman v Auckland

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Saturday, September 19, 2015    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Even if beaten, Tasman will still be on top of the table and in all likelihood will have secured themselves a home semi-final and possible home advantage in a final should they get that far.

Form: The only blemish on the records of both teams is Auckland's 21-27 loss to Canterbury in the third round. Tasman have had an outstanding year since opening their season with a 35-20 win away over Waikato. But Auckland will be only their third Premiership opponent to date and will be their toughest test.

Auckland did have a draw with Southland to open their campaign but this week's game is their fourth against Premiership sides. They have been in high-scoring touch with a 50-28 win over Waikato and 45-28 over Manawatu. Their attacking ability will be put to the test against a solid defence in Nelson.

Played: Six

Wins: Tasman 2, Auckland 3, Drawn 1

Last match: Auckland 16 Tasman 16, Eden Park, 2014

Teams:

TASMAN MAKOS: 1.Tim Perry, 2.Quentin MacDonald, 3.Siua Halanukonuka, 4.Alex Ainley, 5.Joe Wheeler, 6.Pete Samu, 7.Shane Christie, 8.Liam Squire, 9.Billy Guyton, 10.Marty Banks, 11.Mitchell Scott, 12.Trael Joass, 13.Kieron Fonotia, 14.Viliami Lolohea, 15.David Havili.

Reserves: 16.Jesse MacDonald, 17.Ross Geldenhuys, 18.Jake Stafford-Wood, 19.Marco Kotze, 20.Vernon Fredericks, 21.Jimmy Cowan, 22.Trent Renata, 23.Kade Poki.

AUCKLAND: 1.Sam Prattley, 2.Kurt Ekland, 3.Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 4.Michael Fatialofa, 5.William Lloyd, 6.Joe Edwards, 7.Mitch Karpik, 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Jono Hickey, 10.Simon Hickey, 11.Ben Lam, 12.George Moala, 13.Vince Aso, 14.Bryce Heem, 15.Charles Piutau,.

Reserves: 16.Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17.Tom McHugh, 18.Jono Owen, 19.Taleni Seu, 20.Blake Gibson, 21.Kaito Shigeno, 22.Mitch Hunt, 23.Rieko Ioane.


Squad Update: David Havili has been retained at fullback, shutting out stalward Robbie Malneek who hasn't even made the reserves with the management bringing Kade Poki in to cover the outside backs. In the pack Siua Halanukonuka has been preferred to Ross Geldenhuys at tighthead prop.

Auckland have left out fullback Lolagi Visinia who is recovering from an injury. Charles Piutau has moved to fullback while Vince Aso will play centre. In the pack hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate is back from injury while lock William Lloyd has been promoted to a start. Still not being considered due to injury are Airi Hunt, Melani Nanai and Isi Tu'ungafasi.

Key Players: George Moala is always a handful, no matter who he is playing, and he goes into this game with a chance to gain a share of a distinctive record. He has scored in every game played so far, something that has been achieved only once, by Wellington wing Karl Tenana in 1997.

Up front some fascinating contests are in store. The well-performed locking combination of Joe Wheeler and Alex Ainley are one of the best in the competition while Michael Fatialofa has an inexperienced partner in William Lloyd for Auckland. In the loose the dynamic Tasman unit, headed by Shane Christie with Pete Samu and Liam Squire are capable of putting Auckland under extreme pressure. But the explosiveness of Akira Ioane and Joe Edwards, and the scrapping ability of Mitch Karpik should ensure a superb contest.