Chance to lose nearly tag

Harbour captain Charles Elton (left) and Southern captain Josh Walden get an early touch of the...
Harbour captain Charles Elton (left) and Southern captain Josh Walden get an early touch of the premier shield, which is at stake in the club final at Forsyth Barr Stadium this afternoon. Photo: Peter McIntosh.
Southern and Harbour will not know themselves when they run out for the final at Forsyth Barr Stadium this afternoon.

Both teams have been slugging it out on the waterlogged surfaces around the city for the past four months.

They have shaken off the mud each week and have consistently been the best two teams in the competition.

Their reward is a roof over their head, a firm surface beneath their feet and a chance to bury that awful reputation they both have for being the bridesmaid.

Harbour is in its 25th year as a club and has never won the banner, while Southern has watched 10 years slip by since it last won the title. Both teams have plenty to prove today.

"I’ve lost four [semifinals] myself, so it is great to get the monkey off the back and there is a real buzz around the club," Southern captain and halfback Josh Walden said.

"Harbour will be just as eager to get their hands on the banner because we are two teams that have probably underperformed in the past."

Hawks captain Charles Elton confirmed that assumption.

"There is definitely some excitement," Elton said.

"None of us have actually been to a final before because in the last couple of years we have dipped out in the semis.

"But we’ve had a good group together for four or five years now and I think we are pretty confident."

Southern has had its share of injuries. It has used 34 players throughout the season, but it has always been able to put a powerful forward pack on the park.

The Magpies’ greatest strength has been its dominance in the set pieces. Props Craig Millar and Mike Mata-afa have kept the scrum moving forward, while lock Axel Hohneck and loose forward Josh Clark have provided their team with a steady supply of lineout ball.

Flanker Adam Knight has been sidelined with injury for most of the season but his return bolsters the lineout, while human bulldozer Mika Mafi has probably bumped off more tackles than anyone else this season. In summary, Southern has a formidable pack but Harbour’s forwards are not too shabby, either. Just about everyone in the eight is menacing when carrying the ball.

Lock Chucky Koroi and hooker Sekonaia Pole certainly fit that description, while Ben Whale has done a superb job orchestrating the lineouts and popping up in the clear.

It is outside where Harbour may have the edge. The Hawks have shown more flair than their rival this season.

Fullback Sala Halaleva and winger Jerome Harimate know how to find holes in a defensive line. Sio Tomkinson is a strong defender in the midfield and Hemaua Samasoni must be the biggest winger in the competition.

Southern’s edge is closer to the scrum with Walden and Josh Ioane forming the best halfback and first five-eighth combination in the grade.

Ioane kicked five penalties in the semifinal to help seal a 15-10 win against Kaikorai, so Harbour will need to be disciplined.

But the Hawks will also need to be on guard against his running game. He shapes as the most threatening of the Southern backs.

"Hopefully, we can convert more opportunities this week [because we let some slip against Kaikorai]. That has definitely been a focus this week," Walden said.

"It is going to be a dry track and it is going to be fast. So it could be a battle of the fittest after playing in all the bogs. It could come down to the last 20 minutes."

Harbour impressed more in its 40-27 win against Dunedin in the other semifinal. The final margin was flattering for Dunedin, as the Sharks scored two late tries.

Harbour will start the final with a real sense of confidence as a result.

"I’m fairly confident we can do the job this weekend," Elton said.

"[The semifinal] was the first time we had played on a dry track in yonks and we really enjoyed the chance to be able to play a bit of footy and get the ball wide."


Dunedin premier club rugby final

Southern v Harbour
Forsyth Barr Stadium, 3pm

Referee: Adam Morrison


Southern: Played 16, won 13, lost 2, drew 1; beat Kaikorai 15-10 in the semifinals
Harbour: Played 15, won 11, lost 3, drew 1; beat Dunedin 40-27 in the semifinals


Southern: Bryce Hosie, Ben Leggett, Paul Tupai, Tei Walden, Josh Buchan, Josh Ioane, Josh Walden (captain), Mika Mafi, Adam Knight, Josh Clark, Andrew Sanders, Axel Hohneck, Mike Mata’afa, Cameron Keech, Craig Millar. Reserves: Joe Weatherall, Simon Knight,  Harry Flood, Jake McEwan, Kyle Harris, Mackenzie Haugh, Rema Smith.

Harbour: Sala Halaleva, Hemaua Samasoni, Ewan Brumwell, Sio Tomkinson, Jerome Harimate, Logan Allen, Tala Fagasoaia, Charles Elton (captain), James Tomkinson, Ben Whale, Chucky Koroi, Sione Misiloi, Giorgio Bower, Sekonaia Pole, Aiden Spence. Reserves: Christian Schaaf, Benny Rumble, Alan Burling, Patrick Sio, Vinnie Isherwood, Rory Parata, Marckis Schaaf.

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