Changes as Otago seeks crucial win

Cory Brown
Cory Brown
Otago must beat Southland to stay in playoff contention and coach Cory Brown has rung the changes to help secure a positive result.

The team is in fifth place in the championship standings going into the final round but a place in the playoffs is still well within reach.

"There is a lot to play for and it is going to be an exciting round of footy," Brown said when asked about the various scenarios which could help keep the door ajar.

A win against Southland at Forsyth Barr Stadium is not negotiable and Brown has made five changes to re-energise his side after a disappointing 36-28 loss to Bay of Plenty last weekend.

Otago lacked composure and made too many costly errors, so Brown’s approach has been to send a clear message to his team.

There is one change in the front row, with Donald Brighouse replacing Hisa Sasagi.

"All four props have been going really well all year," Brown said, but added he felt Brighouse  started better while Sasagi  added greater impact from the bench.

The scrum has been functioning well and some more muscle has been added with lock Blair Tweed replacing Italian international Josh Furno in the starting line-up.

Tweed has been included to bring "a little bit of energy and enthusiasm".

"He has had a pretty tough year around illness and got a head knock. And Josh has had a massive workload so it is just about getting some freshness in there."

Southern No8 Mika Mafi drops out of the game-day squad with University loose forward Sione Teu taking his place at the boot of the scrum. Teu was sidelined when he injured his shoulder in the match against Northland.

"He had been playing really well. He has a really physical low tackle and brings lots of energy as well."

Teu is also another useful lineout option.

Winger Mitchell Scott returns from a hamstring injury and replaces Vilimoni Koroi on the right wing.

"Mitchell is one of our most experienced players and is an awesome communicator in the back and that is why he is in there, really."

Highlanders utility back Matt Faddes also gets a start. He broke a bone in his hand earlier in the season and made his playing return from the bench last weekend.

He replaces Fletcher Smith at fullback to complete a potent back three which includes form winger Jona Nareki.

Brown expects Southland to kick for territory which is why he was keen to bolster Otago’s experience at the back. But it is around the ruck area where Brown believes Southland will try to assert itself.

"I think they will try to bring some physicality at the breakdown, so we have to make sure that we have a lot of urgency there. We lacked that a little bit last week against Bay of Plenty."

The only other change is on the bench, with Jonah Aoina replacing Aki Seiuli.

 

Otago v Southland
FB Stadium, tomorrow, 5.05pm

Otago: Matt Faddes, Mitchell Scott, Sio Tomkinson, Tei Walden, Jona Nareki, Josh Ioane, Jonathan Ruru, Sione Teu, Dillon Hunt, Adam Knight, Josh Dickson, Blair Tweed, Donald Brighouse, Sam Anderson-Heather, Craig Millar. Reserves: Sekonaia Pole, Jonah Aoina, Hisa Sasagi, Josh Furno, Slade McDowall, Josh Renton, Fletcher Smith, Latu Vaeno.

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