Intensity to go up a notch for Otago

Otago Mitre 10 Cup lock Tom Rowe hoists a 4kg circle of Whitestone Cheese’s Ohau Goat’s Blue outside the cheesemaker’s Torridge St factory in Oamaru yesterday. Photo: Daniel Birchfield
Otago Mitre 10 Cup lock Tom Rowe hoists a 4kg circle of Whitestone Cheese’s Ohau Goat’s Blue outside the cheesemaker’s Torridge St factory in Oamaru yesterday. Photo: Daniel Birchfield
The intensity for the Otago side will go up a notch or three when it takes on the cream of the crop and some untried youngsters in Christchurch tonight.

Otago will be part of the game of three halves fixture at AMI Stadium.

Otago and Canterbury will play the first 40 minutes before the red and blacks take a break and the All Blacks take to the field to play Otago in the second 40 minutes.

Otago will then head to the sidelines as a second Canterbury team takes to the field to play the All Blacks in the final period.

Otago has got back most of its Super Rugby players.

Flanker James Lentjes has a neck injury he picked up in the Super Rugby season and will miss the match while prop Donald Brighouse is on leave after spending the past two months with the Crusaders.

Winger Jona Nareki is also on leave after returning from the World Cup sevens success. Hooker Liam Coltman is training with the All Blacks.

Otago will start an experienced backline. Michael Collins is at fullback and Mitch Scott and the exciting Vilimoni Koroi on the wing.

Matt Faddes and Sio Tomkinson pair up in midfield while Josh Ioane and Josh Renton are the inside-back pairing.

Slade McDowall, who missed the end of the club season because of an ankle injury, starts on the openside flank.

Aki Seiuli and Hisa Sasagi will prop the scrum with Sekonaia Pole starting at hooker.

Harbour and Samaon halfback Melani Matavao has joined the Otago squad as the third No9.

This is the final hit-out for the side before the opening Mitre 10 Cup game against Wellington on Sunday week so there is some importance to the match.

The starting side resembles the 15 players expected to start the match in the capital so combinations will be needed.

The pack is big enough and strong enough to combat what will be some more than decent opposition.

Coach Ben Herring said the side was excited about the match.

''We are keen to go up against both Canterbury and the All Blacks in this game.

''Many of the young players in our team will have aspirations to go to this top level, so having the opportunity to go up against them early on in their career gives them a taste of the skill level they need to have,'' he said.

''For Otago, really there is no better pre-season training than playing against a strong Canterbury team, and the All Blacks, as it gives us a chance to sharpen our skills going into our first game next week.''

Highlanders hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate has switched from North Harbour to Canterbury but most of Canterbury's first-choice players are still on leave after the Crusaders' success.

The All Blacks have not named a starting side for either half but will use all the players from its squad.

Game of three halves

Kick off at 6.30pm

Otago: Michael Collins, Mitch Scott, Matt Faddes, Sio Tomkinson, Vilimoni Koroi, Josh Ioane, Josh Renton, Dylan Nel, Slade McDowall, Joketani Koroi, Josh Dickson, Tom Rowe, Hisa Sasagi, Sekonaia Pole, Aki Seiuli.

Reserves: Tom Hill, Jonah Aiona, Sam Anderson-Heather, Giorgio Bower, Josh Larsen, Sione Misiloi, Sam Dickson, Kurt Hammer, Finn Strawbridge, Matt Whaanga, Josh Timu, Taylor Haugh, Ricky Jackson, Melani Matavao.

Cantabrians: Zach McKay, Fili Waqanianbete, Tim Murgatroyd, James Hawkey, Nigel Gibb, Caleb Makene, Harry Kirk, Tepasu Thomas, Matt Elia, Tom Sanders, Ben Morris, Tom Hughes, Chris King, Brodie McAlister, Harrison Allan.

Reserves: Greg Pleasants-Tate, Kalolo Otutaha, Samu Tawake, Hamish Dalzell, Hugh Renton, Jonny Van der Velde, Stefen Moir, Mark Maitland.


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