Skipper has until tomorrow to prove fitness

Sam Anderson-Heather. Photo: Supplied
Sam Anderson-Heather. Photo: Supplied
Otago will give captain Sam Anderson-Heather until tomorrow to see if he can make the start line in the side’s match against Tasman.

Anderson-Heather has been a stand-out for Otago this season but has picked up a neck complaint with which he has been struggling  all week.

Otago coach Cory Brown said Anderson-Heather would be given until the day of the game to see how his neck was.

The hooker had been struggling with it but was keen to play in what is looming as a key clash for the side.

If Anderson-Heather is ruled out, Harbour hooker Sekonaia Pole will come into the starting side and University youngster Ricky Jackson will come on to the bench.

Jackson was brought back from the New Zealand under-19 tournament in Taupo earlier this week to train with Otago.

It would be a swift promotion for the youngster but options are limited with Liam Coltman out for the season.

Tei Walden will captain the side if Anderson-Heather does not make it.

In other changes to the team, winger Latu Vaeno comes on to the left wing and Mitchell Scott on the right, after Jona Nareki picked up a knee injury in the big win over Hawke’s Bay.

Leroy van Dam moves to the reserves.

Otago is coming off the record-breaking win over Hawke’s Bay and Brown said the players had trained well this week. However, Tasman will be far above what Hawke’s Bay offered last week and the home side will have to be ready for a thorough examination.

The line dividing Championship and Premiership teams is becoming increasingly blurred and more meaningless every season, but Tasman will not be taking Otago lightly, especially after the home side came out on top when the sides met last year, also at Forysth Barr Stadium.

Tasman is captained by Highlanders lock Alex Ainley,  the only Highlander in the Tasman squad for tomorrow’s game. Tasman has been a major contributor to the Super Rugby side in recent years but that is reducing.

Flanker Shane Christie is still not back training while first five-eighth Marty Banks and lock Joe Wheeler are both playing overseas.

Prop Siosuia Halanukonuka has an injured foot and will head to Glasgow at the end of the season while loose forward Liam Squire is with the All Blacks.

Tasman reserve hooker Ti’i Paulo will come full circle. He attended Kavanagh College and was captain of the New Zealand Schools team, which played a test in Dunedin in 2001.

He then went to Canterbury before heading overseas for a lengthy period. He returned to New Zealand this year linking with Tasman.

His sibling is Otago centre Sio Tomkinson.

Fullback Vilimoni Koroi has recovered from the mumps and comes off the bench.


Otago v Tasman
Forsyth Barr Stadium, tomorrow, 4.35pm

Otago: Fletcher Smith, Mitchell Scott, Sio Tomkinson, Tei Walden, Latu Vaeno, Josh Ioane, Josh Renton, Adam Knight, James Lentjes, Dillon Hunt, Josh Dickson, Josh Furno, Hisa Sasagi, Sam Anderson-Heather (captain) or Sekonaia Pole, Craig Millar. Reserves: Pole or Ricky Jackson, Aki Seiuli, Donald Brighouse, Blair Tweed, Sione Teu, Jonathan Ruru, Vilimoni Koroi, Leroy van Dam.

Tasman: Will Jordan, Tima Faingaanuku, Levi Aumua, Alex Nankivell, James Lowe, Mitch Hunt, Billy Guyton, Jordan Taufua, Vernon Fredericks, Ethan Blackadder, Quinten Strange, Alex Ainley (captain), Isaac Salmon, Andrew Makalio, Tim Perry. Reserves: Ti’i Paulo, Tom Hill, Drew Petelo, Shannon Frizell, Pete Samu, Finlay Christie, Tom O’Malley, Trael Joass.

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