Next two matches crucial for Spirit

Scott Manson
Scott Manson
The Otago Spirit has already started thinking about finals footy.

There are two games to get through before the playoffs and they are both vital.

The Spirit hosts North Harbour tomorrow and travels to Napier next week to play a top-of-the-table match against Hawke's Bay.

If it can win both then the side will qualify top of the Championship and get the easier run through the playoffs.

The top two sides at the end of the round-robin phase get a break while the other two semifinal slots are decided.

The third-placed side plays the the sixth-ranked team and the fourth and fifth-placed teams play off.

The winner progresses to the semifinal.

"I don't know where the semifinals will be played but it would be nice to be on a hard, fast track," coach Scott Manson said.

The Spirit will have a hard, fast track tomorrow. The surface at Forsyth Barr Stadium will suit the team's style.

Manson has stuck with a settled line-up for the game.

Sheree Hume has returned from a crossfit event and reclaims her spot at fullback.

Teilah Ferguson will get her first start of the season. She has replaced Kiana Wereta on the left wing.

Wereta has a niggly shoulder and could have played but is being rested.

"We just want to give her the week off to get it right because she is a key player for us moving forward."

Ferguson has started all three games from the bench and has been playing in the midfield.

But she had a run during the pre-season on the left wing and Manson liked what he saw.

Sheree Hume
Sheree Hume
"She has a really good fend, she is quick enough and certainly strong enough.

"So we are giving her a go on the wing where she will have more time and space."

The only other change to the side which dispatched Tasman 58-15 is the inclusion of Hinemoa Watene on the bench at the expense of Jordyn Tereu.

One talking point is the decision to stay with Rosie Kelly at first five-eighth. Hannah Stolba started the first two games at pivot but is limited to a role from the bench for a second week running.

"They offer quite different things. Hannah is a great thinker and organises very well, so read like to have her come on and finish the game.

"Rosie has that real attacking mindset and can spark something out of nothing."

Harbour suffered a 27-21 loss to Northland in Whangarei last weekend but remains in third place in the Championship standings.

Otago v North Harbour

Dunedin, tomorrow, 11.30am

Otago: Sheree Hume, Trisha Hopcroft, Amy Du Plessis, Kilisitina Moata’ane, Teilah Ferguson, Rosie Kelly, Rosie Buchanan-Brown, Greer Muir, Morgan Henderson, Bree Thomas, Julia Gorinski, Kate Smith, Eilis Doyle, Tegan Hollows, Isla Pringle. Reserves: Gemma Millar, Claudia Hobbs, Jess Kendall, Hannah Stolba, Hinemoa
Watene, Cheyenne Cunningham, Meg Breen.

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