Plenty to watch for in pre-season clash

Otago midfield back Aleki Morris looks to move the ball on under the watchful eye of (from left)...
Otago midfield back Aleki Morris looks to move the ball on under the watchful eye of (from left) Josh Dickson at Logan Park this week. Photo: Gregor Richardson
The result will be very much secondary when Otago takes on Tasman in a pre-season match in Nelson tonight.

Games at this time of the year are mostly about what happens out on the field rather than who does best on the scoreboard.

Getting the set piece right, knitting in combinations and finding the right lines of defence are things which need to be nailed.

There are some intriguing battles within the match and plenty of storylines.

One of the biggest is the return of All Black flanker Liam Squire. Squire will start on the bench for the Tasman side, but is bound to get some game time.

He has made himself unavailable for the All Blacks for the Rugby Championship, although he looks to still be well in the frame for the national side. But having played only three games for the Highlanders and half a game for the Taieri club this year, Squire should have some rust showing.

He last played for Tasman in 2015, and is part of an impressive set of loose forwards in the Tasman team.

Jordan Taufua, who is off to Leicester at the end of the year, is turning out for Tasman again, after having also played for Counties-Manukau and Canterbury in the Mitre 10 Cup. Taufua will be keen to make an impression after slipping off the All Black radar.

After being dropped from the All Blacks, loose forward Shannon Frizell will come back into the selection picture, though he will miss this game.

Highlanders lock Pari Pari Parkinson picked up an ankle injury in the game for the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua and should be back in a couple of weeks. Tyrel Lomax misses the game.

Tasman has named an impressive backline with plenty of Super Rugby experience. Former All Black David Havili will captain the side from fullback.

Otago is still bedding in combinations, and much will centre on the performance of first five-eighth Vilimoni Koroi. Normally a fullback or winger, he is the playmaker in the sevens side so does have some experience in seeing the bigger picture.

Josh Ioane gets a chance at fullback, while it will be interesting to see how Taylor Haugh performs on the wing.

Big South African lock Louis Conradie makes a swift return from injury. He had injured his chest and there were fears he may miss the season. But he will front tonight - and at 2.04m tall he will be hard to miss.

Prop Aki Seiuli makes his first start in just under a year, coming back from a serious knee injury.

The sides have played every year in the Mitre 10 Cup since it went to the two-division structure in 2011. But this year the teams will not clash.

Scattered showers are forecast for Nelson today.

Otago v Tasman

Nelson, today, 6pm

Otago: Josh Ioane, Taylor Haugh, Aleki Morris, Matt Whaanga, Jona Nareki, Vilimoni Koroi, Kayne Hammington, Dylan Nel (captain), James Lentjes, Joketani Koroi, Josh Dickson, Louis Conradie, Hisa Sasagi, Nic Souchon, Aki Seiuli. Reserves: Giorgio Bower, Sekonaia Pole, Angus Williams, Josh Hill, Joe Latta, Jack McHugh, Saula Ma’u, Kurt Hammer, Sio Tomkinson, Harrison Boyle.

Tasman: David Havili (captain), Will Jordan, Levi Aumua, Alex Nankivell, Leicester Faingaahuku, Mitch Hunt, Declan Smith, Jordan Taufua, Jacob Norris, Ethan Blackadder, Te Ahuwaru Cirikidaveta, Quinten Strange, Isaac Salmon, Andrew Makalio, Ryan Coxon. Reserves: Hugh Roach, Wyatt Crockett, Blair Prinsep, Isaiah Miller, Liam Squire, Finlay Christie, Tim O’Malley, Jamie Spowart, Sione Havili, Fetui Paea, Tima Faingaanuku


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