Moata'ane out for Spirit's season-opener

Kilistina Moata'ane.
Kilistina Moata'ane.
The Otago Spirit will have to make do without Black Ferns-contracted player Kilistina Moata'ane for its season-opening match at North Harbour in Dunedin on Saturday.

The hard-running second five-eighth injured her ankle during the ''game of three halves'' against Canterbury and Tasman in Christchurch on August 18.

She has her foot in a moon boot and is expected to be out of action for at least a month, coach Scott Manson said.

''It could be four weeks, it could be six weeks,'' Manson said when asked how long she would be out.

''At least a month is the indication.''

The Spirit will name its side for the fixture today but hooker Tegan Hollows will captain the team this season.

Experienced midfielder Greer Muir and utility forward Zoe Whatarau have been named as joint vice-captains.

Openside flanker Georgia Mason shapes as a key player. With the Spirit intending to employ an expansive game plan again, the hardworking loosie will have to cover some ground.

Fullback Sheree Hume will be a steadying influence at the back and is expected to pop up as first receiver every now and then to help lift the pressure on rookie first five-eighth Rosie Kelly.

Southlander Cass Englar's pace and ability to manipulate the defence means the team will be dangerous out wide.

The side has had just the one warm-up fixture but Manson felt the team extracted a lot of knowledge from the hit-out.

''The way we played against Tasman, it proved that we do have some really good players and we can still score tries if things aren't going quite right.

''When it came to Canterbury, you could see if we didn't quite stick to our systems, then we did get a little bit punished.''

The defensive pattern was exposed as well, so there were some ''fixes'' needed to make sure ''everyone is on board''.

Manson has a young squad. About nine players were under the age of 19 on January 1.

Despite some inexperience, Manson said the team hoped to improve on last year's effort. The Spirit made it to the championship final but was beaten 7-5 by Bay of Plenty in horrendous conditions at Blake Park in Mount Maunganui.

Manson expects North Harbour will look to dominate the forward exchanges through the ''big boppers up front''.

''We'll obviously look to tire them out and work hard to get opportunities for our finishes.''

The match gets under way at the University of Otago Oval at noon.


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