Otago going in strongly

Halfback Jono Hickey looks to move the ball while the defence is getting into gear at Otago...
Halfback Jono Hickey looks to move the ball while the defence is getting into gear at Otago training at Logan Park earlier this week. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Momentum means a lot in sport.

At the moment, Otago has some. Canterbury not so much.

Heading into tonight’s Mitre 10 Cup match in Christchurch, Otago has won its last three games.

It beat Wellington in the capital and then had home victories over Counties-Manukau and Northland last Friday night.

Canterbury, on the other hand, started the season with a win, lost two games, then won two matches — one of them in extra time — and have lost the last two games.

So the red and blacks have been stumbling along a bit, and the side was hammered last week by Bay of Plenty 44-8.

The home side now not only finds itself outside the top four, but is in a dogfight to avoid relegation.

It has tough games against Tasman and Auckland left, so needs to get something out of tonight’s match.

Otago has been tracking along well, though playing in the championship is definitely easier than the premiership where Canterbury is placed.

Otago has not won at the stadium in Addington since it was constructed in 2012, but if ever there is time for a win it is tonight.

The side has the artillery to get the job done. It has an experienced and solid front row. Lock Josh Dickson is in good form coming back from injury while flanker Slade McDowall gets his chance to show his wares after completing a three-week suspension.

Sam Fischli makes his starting debut for Otago. The former South Otago High School pupil, who hails from Milton, has worked away at Taieri and was impressive in the title winning side this year.

He will have big shoes to fill with Charles Elton having played well for Otago this season, making the step up from North Otago in the Heartland Championship.

In the backs, the trio of Josh Ioane, Sio Tomkinson and Vilimoni Koroi will have a point to prove, having missed games through suspension and breaching team protocol.

Michael Collins, who has led the team with aplomb this year, will look to make an impact off the bench.

Cloudy but warm weather is forecast for Christchurch.

Otago v Canterbury

Christchurch, 7.05pm
Otago: Vilimoni Koroi, Freedom Vahaakolo, Josh Timu, Sio Tomkinson, Jona Nareki, Josh Ioane, Kayne Hammington, Nasi Manu, Slade McDowall, Sam Fischli, Josh Dickson, Will Tucker, Josh Hohneck, Liam Coltman (c), Jamie Mackintosh. Reserves: Ricky Jackson, Jonah Aoina, Hisa Sasagi, Jack Regan, Sione Misiloi, James Arscott, Michael Collins, Charles Elton.

Canterbury: Josh McKay, Chay Fihaki, Dallas McLeod, Rameka Poihipi, Ngane Punivai, Fergus Burke, Mitch Drummond, Reed Prinsep (c), Tom Christie, Billy Harmon, Sam Darry, Luke Romano, Oli Jager, Brodie McAlister, Daniel Lienert-Brown. Reserves: Shilo Klein, Finlay Brewis, Tamaiti Williams, Liam Allen, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Luke Donaldson, Brett Cameron, Andrew Knewstubb.

Referee: Brendon Pickerell (North Harbour)

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