Big challenge for Otago against Hawke's Bay

Josh Ioane (pictured) and Vilimoni Koroi in the inside backs is a calculated gamble. Photo: Getty...
Josh Ioane (pictured) and Vilimoni Koroi in the inside backs is a calculated gamble. Photo: Getty Images
Enterprise and discipline - the two ingredients Otago will need to succeed in Napier today.

The Otago side will go into the Mitre 10 Cup championship semifinal today as an outside chance against a Hawke's Bay side which has been polished for most of the season.

The home team has a solid set of forwards, with some X factor in loose forwards Gareth Evans and Brendon O'Connor.

Highlanders and Hawke's Bay halfback Folau Fakatava is a vital ingredient for the Magpies. The youngster has the ability to find a gap around the ruck and pops up all over the park.

The Hawke's Bay backline has been boosted by the return from long-term injury of Tiaan Falcon, who slots in at fullback.

There is plenty of scoring power in the Hawke's Bay side, although it leaked a lot of points against Bay of Plenty and Tasman in recent weeks.

Otago knows it is in for a challenge, and will have to play well to succeed. It will look to move the ball and get it to the guys who can score points.

Josh Ioane and Vilimoni Koroi in the inside backs is a calculated gamble. The duo are good with the ball, but need it on the front foot and with some momentum.

Koroi was a joy to watch when at first five-eighth against Taranaki, and he needs to deliver a game at a similar level if Otago is to be in with a chance.

Otago must get the ball to left winger Jona Nareki, who is a constant danger and knows his way to the tryline. When he drifts out of the game, Otago is usually struggling, so the side must work hard.

It is a big game for lock Sione Misiloi. He started the season well but a few injury niggles and others preferred has seen him quiet over the past month. But his ability to get over the advantage line and his big body is a real advantage for the side - if he is able to get it right.

Hawke's Bay is a side which is something of a one-trick pony.

The side bases much of its game around the lineout drive; kicking from penalties into the corner and going from there.

So Otago must keep its discipline and not give the home team the chance to play to its strength.

Otago has struggled in away playoffs. It lost to Wellington in 2015 and Bay of Plenty in 2017.

The weather is expected to be fine, but the ground soft.

Mitre 10 Cup

Otago v Hawke’s Bay, Napier, today, 4.35pm

Otago: Michael Collins (captain), Henry Purdy, Aleki Morris-Lome, Josh Ioane,
Jona Nareki, Vilimoni Koroi, Rowan Gouws, Dylan Nel, Slade McDowall, Adam
Thomson, Josh Dickson, Sione Misiloi, Hisa Sasagi, Steven Misa, Aki Seiuli.
Reserves: Sekonaia Pole, George Bower, Saula Ma’u, Josh Hill, Mika Mafi, Connor
McLeod, Taylor Haugh, Matt Whaanga.
Hawke’s Bay: Tiaan Falcon, Caleb Makene, Neria Fomai, Stacey Ili, Mason
Emerson, Lincoln McClutchie, Folau Fakatava, Gareth Evans, Brendon O’Connor,
Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Tom Parsons, Michael Allardice, Ben May, Ash Dixon
(captain), Pouri Rakete-Stones. Reserves: Kianu Kereru-Symes, Jason Long, Joel
Hintz, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Josh Kaifa, Devan Flanders. Ollie Sapsford, Jonah
Referee: Angus Mabey (Auckland)

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