Rugby: Hard match for N. Otago

Two big hurdles remain for North Otago to clear before it knows whether it will progress to the playoffs in Heartland rugby.

The first big task is this afternoon at Alpine Energy Stadium in Timaru against the Barry Matthews-coached South Canterbury side, second behind unbeaten Mid Canterbury.

South Canterbury lost its first game of the round to Mid Canterbury but since then has strung together five wins in a row to reinforce its position as a Meads Cup home semifinalist.

Three changes have been made to the North Otago side for today's game: Oscar Pamment comes back in, replacing Sale Pi'i; Jason Forrest replaces Ben Palmer at first five-eighth, with Palmer carrying a shoulder injury from the Buller game; and Manu Tait returns to the flank.

In the reserves, Kasanova Saone comes in as an outside back reserve.

South Canterbury has everything to play for, with the Phil Gard Memorial trophy on the line as well as the Direen Cup.

Matthews has made one important change with loan player Jason Merret dropped to the reserves and replaced by Geraldine club player Jared Trevathan at first five-eighth.

South Canterbury has real pace out wide in the form of Rupeni Cokonasigna and Erenimo Tau and a solid forward pack, although loosehead prop Timaru Tafa is a doubtful starter.

South Canterbury's strength extends to its bench, where there is a wealth of talent and experience in the form of Nick Strachan, Nick Annear and Merrett.

North Otago (18 points), going into the game in fourth place, will be looking over its shoulder after the game, as West Coast (16) could leapfrog over it if it beats King Country (11), and Wairarapa-Bush (17) could also pass it when it plays East Coast (2) in Masterton.

Terry O'Neill 



N. Otago v S. Canterbury
Timaru, today, 2.30pm

North Otago: Lemi Masoe, Piliu Tavaki, Sala Halaleva, Aleki Morris, Oscar Pamment, Jason Forrest, Inoke Naufahu, Samisoni Tongotongo, Manu Taiti, Maene Mapusaga, Taua Limuloa, John Kelly, Palenapa Mafi, Sam Sturgess, Ralph Darling (captain). Reserves: Sione Palaa, Rob Mafileo, Jared Whitburn, Matt Duff, Kilifi Fangupo, Kasanova Saone, Sale Pi'i.

South Canterbury: Paula Fifita, Rupeni Cokonasigna, Mile Medlicott, Jared Matthews, Erenimo Tau, Jared Trevathan, Theo Davidson, Kieran Coll (captain), Frank Havea, Sam Vea, Tui Tauelangi, Joseteki Veikune, Matt Fetu, Sione Vea, Timaru Tafa. Reserves: Junior Koli-Sio, Ben Hewitson, Don Lolo, Nick Strachan, Nick Annear, Jason Merrett, Maile I'Ongi.


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