Rare meeting of teams

Otago captain Michael Collins fends off Brad Weber on the way to his side's win over Hawke's Bay...
Otago captain Michael Collins fends off Brad Weber on the way to his side's win over Hawke's Bay at Forsyth Barr Stadium. Photo: Getty Images
Familiarity can often breed boredom in the rugby season.

For many, games just roll into each other and so-called rivalries often just become mundane and stale.

But when Otago takes on Taranaki tomorrow afternoon at Forsyth Barr Stadium, the sides will experience plenty of freshness.

It will be a rare outing when Otago and Taranaki take each other on. The two sides have not met each other very often in the past few years - in fact just 80 minutes in eight seasons.

Since the competition was split into two divisions in 2011, the teams have played each other only once.

That was in 2015 when Otago halfback Kaide Whiting managed to squeeze over in the dying minutes to win the game 34-27, in a rainy New Plymouth.

The sides have always been in separate divisions since the competition split in two in 2011.

But Taranaki had an awful season in 2018 with injuries affecting the side and the two main stands of its home ground both closed, which cut into its bottom line.

It lost the Ranfurly Shield and then ended up being relegated from the premiership to the championship, the first time it has tasted the lower division of provincial rugby.

The side has always had deep pockets and been in the top division of the sport in this country. It actually won the premiership in 2014.

But it has had to cut back on its recruitment, although it will still be able to field a more than competitive side.

Otago has had its chances to go up to the premiership but have lost three finals since the competition split in two.

Otago has made a couple of changes to its starting team in this fifth defence of the Ranfurly Shield. Josh Ioane is away with the All Blacks, while Henry Purdy is over his shoulder complaint and will start the game.

Up front, lock Josh Dickson comes into the side after missing last week because of a family funeral.

Dylan Nel left the field last Friday night against Manawatu with a hip complaint and was hoping to play but was ruled out yesterday. Sione Misiloi is at No 8 and Josh Hill comes into the reserves.

Outside back Josh Timu is also in the reserves.

Taranaki started the competition well with three wins to start the season over Counties-Manukau, Manawatu and then Northland. But it lost last week against Tasman, despite firing plenty at the leading team in the competition.

It has brought back some top players into its side and has more than 10 Super Rugby players in its starting team.

Taranaki lost the Ranfurly Shield to Waikato on this weekend, exactly one year ago.

Otago v Taranaki, Forsyth Barr Stadium

Tomorrow, 4.35pm

Otago: Michael Collins (captain), Henry Purdy, Aleki Morris-Lome, Sio Tomkinson, Jona Nareki, Vilimoni Koroi, Kayne Hammington, Sione Misiloi, Slade McDowall,
Adam Thomson, Josh Dickson, Louis Conradie, Hisa Sasagi, Sekonaia Pole,  Jonah Aoina. Reserves: Nic Souchon, Aki Seiuli, George Bower, Josh Hill, James Lentjes, Rowan Gouws, Harumichi Tatekawa, Josh Timu.

Taranaki: Jayson Potroz, Waisake Naholo, Tei Walden, Daniel Waite, Sean Wainui, Stephen Perofeta, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Pita Gus Sowakula, Lachlan Boshier,
Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Mitch Brown (captain), Jesse Parete, Donald Brighouse, Ricky Riccitelli, Chris Gawler. Reserves: Bradley Slater, Kyle Stewart, Jared Proffit, Kaylum Boshier, Tom Florence, Lisati Milo-Harris, Matt McKenzie, Jackson Ormond Referee: Nick Briant (Bay of Plenty).

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