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With two rounds to go, North Otago lies in sixth place on the table and is in with a chance of making the Meads Cup.
North Otago coach Nigel Walsh says his side cannot rely on other teams to improve its position.
"We haven’t got any problems with motivation. Our aim is to make the top four and we’ve got it all under our control, so today we’ve just got to take the opportunities and then look at next week when we play Wanganui," Walsh said.
No 8 Mika Mafi is playing for Otago this afternoon and and Filipo Veamatahau comes in to replace him. Sam Sturgess starts at hooker.
Also in the forward pack, Jared Whitburn will lock the scrum with Josh Clark while Matt Duff comes back on the openside flank.
In the backs, Connor Newlands comes into the side on the right wing while Antini Brown keeps Dan Lewis out of the first five-eighth position. Lemi Masoe and Lio Lolo are a formidable midfield duo.
Walsh believes in keeping it simple.
"We’re excited. We’ve got a chance so we’ve got to make the most of these opportunities.
There are some interesting games in the rest of the round so we’ve got to get in and make sure we get what we need for from the game today.’’East Coast has yet to win a game in the competition but Walsh is wary.
"They’re always a dangerous team. They’ve got good players and they’re not going to lie down. They’ll be aggressive. They’ll take what we can offer and they’ll give it back. We’ve just got to remember our processes and systems and after that we can look at next week."
There are some other interesting games this afternoon. Second-placed Horowhenua-Kapiti (24) hosts fifth-placed Wanganui (21) in a big clash.
Buller (22), which sits in fourth position, will travel to Ashburton to play sixth-placed Mid Canterbury (20) while seventh-placed Thames Valley (17) plays eighth-placed West Coast (16) in Greymouth.
Poverty Bay (10) and King Country (9) will be playing for a place in the top eight, although this will depend on other results.
South Canterbury, which has been hit by injury but is top of the table, hosts Wairarapa-Bush in Timaru.
- Terry O'Neill
Whitestone Contracting Stadium, today, 2pm
North Otago: Josh Buchan, Connor Newlands, Lio Lolo, Lemi Masoe, Matthew Vocea, Antini Brown, Robbie Smith, Filipo Veamatahau, Matt Duff, Jared Whitburn, Josh Clark, Morgan Dawes, Meli Kolinisau, Sam Sturgess, Ralph Darling (captain) Reserves: Joe Pickett, Anthony Kent, Tom McDonald, Junior Fakatoufifita, Inoke Naufahu, Dan Lewis, Oscar Pamment.
East Coast: Kris Palmer, Epeti Lotawa, Jayden Milner, T Peeti Failie, Sailosi Vatubua, Verdon Bartlett, Neihana Ratahi-Brown, Parekura Laiaga, Patrick Allen, Kereti Palmer, Rhys Walker, Manaia Nyman, Michael Chambers, Perrin Manuel, Laman Davies. Reserves: Moana Nuku, Daniel Knubley, Tim Barbarich, Richard Green, Charles Harrison, Kahu Ward, Fabyan Kahaki.