How the ranks look as playoffs loom

Taieri midfield back Kori Rupune heads for the tryline chased by Southern defenders (from left):...
Taieri could be hit hard with a number of players out at the pointy end of the season. Photo: Christine O'Connor
The premier playoffs are fast approaching so that means the best players are about to fly the coop. Club rugby writer Adrian Seconi looks at which contending teams will hurt the most when the Otago team assembles on July 16. 

University

Points: 56

Playoff prospects: Dead cert. University has set the benchmark this season and enjoys a nine-point buffer at the top of the competition standings.

Prediction: Will secure a home semifinal with a win against Zingari-Richmond tomorrow.

Missing: No-one who is not usually missing. Technically, you could say it will be without Highlanders Matt Faddes and Josh Dickson. Fletcher Smith has signed with Waikato, so it is unlikely he will hang around. You can cross out Josh Timu, as well.

Harbour

Points: 47

Playoff prospects: Solid. The Hawks have recovered from a slow start and have been hugely impressive during the second round.

Prediction: Will win their final two round-robin games and clinch second place.

Missing: Oh dear. The pack will be missing a lot of beef with powerhouse locks Joketani Koroi and Sione Misiloi joining hooker Sekonaia Pole in the Otago camp.

Harbour has survived without Highlander utility back Sio Tomkinson and loose forward Naulia Dawai for most of the season, so their absence will not be as keenly felt.

Southern

Points: 45

Playoff prospects: In the balance. The loss to Kaikorai last weekend could prove costly.

Prediction: Should make it through but will need to win at least one of its final three round-robin games.

Missing: Highlanders back-up first five-eighth Josh Ioane but he has not played much for the club this season. Arguably the bigger loss was the departure of powerful No8 Mika Mafi, who headed north to Oamaru when Otago showed no interest. Hard-running prop Hisa Sasagi will also be missing.

Kaikorai

Points: 44

Playoff prospects: Teetering. Two tough games ahead.

Prediction: Has won five games in a row and will need to keep winning to secure a semifinal appearance.

Missing: Will be without talented trio Josh Renton, Slade McDowall and Jonah Aoina. Aoina is a key man in the front row, while McDowall is a quality loose forward and link man. Renton is a class player at club level. His clearances and box kicking will be sorely missed.

Taieri

Points: 43

Playoff prospects: Promising. Two of its remaining three games look very winnable.

Prediction: Should make it through with comfortable wins against Alhambra-Union and Zingari-Richmond but Kaikorai will present a stern challenge tomorrow.

Missing: The Eels will be hit hard, with fullback Mitch Scott, halfback Kurt Hammer, lock Josh Larsen and front rower Tom Hill all out.

Highlanders James Lentjes and Aki Seiuli take the tally to half a dozen.

Ouch.

 

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