Rugby: Otago to step up a notch

Tony Brown
Tony Brown
Otago will be looking to up its intensity when it plays Tasman in a pre-season match at Forsyth Barr Stadium tomorrow.

The sides have met in the pre-season for the past few years and have always looked to move the ball and get accustomed to what is expected in the ITM Cup.

All Highlanders players from Otago are still on leave. Tasman will also be without its Super rugby players, including Highlanders Shane Christie and Joe Wheeler, who are taking time out after their season.

Rampaging Otago loose forward TJ Ioane is still struggling with an ankle sprain and will not play against Tasman.

Otago coach Tony Brown said Ioane had been bothered by the sprain for a while. Ioane would take the next two to three weeks off to try to get the injury right, but he appears doubtful for the opening game of the season on August 16.

Captain Charlie O'Connell took a quad injury into the club final last week and, though he came through the game all right, the No 8 will be rested and mentally refreshed after a taxing club season.

A shadow Otago side had a promising start to its season with a 36-19 win over a Spartans side, made up of fringe Southland players, last Sunday but Brown was expecting a major step-up in intensity against Tasman.

The players were coming together well but it was now the job of getting out of playing to a club rugby standard and going to the next level.

Tony Ensor will play his first game for Otago since early last season when he takes the field in his preferred fullback position.

The South Otago product had a fantastic season in 2012 but injury robbed him of any chance to impress last year and he will be looking to make up for lost time.

Tei Walden and Kieran Moffat will team up in midfield, while Josh Renton starts at halfback.

Lee Allan will captain the side and will start at No 8. Harbour loose forward Naulia Dawai will wear the Otago colours for the first time.

Tasman is on a short tour of the South Island. It has not brought a full-strength team south, and key first five-eighth Marty Banks is out for six weeks with a knee injury.

One interesting addition to the Tasman ranks is former All Black and Highlanders halfback Jimmy Cowan.

The 32-year-old has returned from a couple of years in England and has linked up with Tasman. Cowan starts the game tomorrow on the bench.

Tasman lost 24-22 to a Canterbury XV in North Canterbury on Wednesday.

Otago: Tony Ensor, Jayden Spence, Kieran Moffat, Tei Walden, Fa'asiu Fuatai, Peter Breen, Josh Renton, Lee Allan (captain), Hugh Blake, Nalai Dawai, Joe Latta, Jackson Hemopo, Hisa Sasagi, Sam Anderson-Heather, Aki Seuili. Reserves: Sam Sturgess, Mike Mata'afa, Josh Dickson, James Lentjes, Nick Ealey, Michael Collins, Matt Faddes, Marshall Suckling, Donald Brighouse
Tasman: Robbie Malneek, Ben Tyler, Mike Wells, Brandyn Lauresen, Mitchell Scott, David Havili, Billy Guyton, Vernon Fredricks, Peter Samu, Niki Moala, Tom Hicks, Jeff Lepa, Ross Geldenhuys, Quentin Macdonald, Ciua Hulanukunuka. Reserves: Jesse MacDonald, Rueben Northover, Tevita Cavubati, Alex Ainley, Tone Ng Shiu, Jimmy Cowan, Fletcher Matthews, Sam Aiono.

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