Rugby: Southland facing fresh North Otago line-up

North Otago selectors Mike Mullins and Sammy Talanoa have named a team featuring eight players who did not appear against Otago last Wednesday for this afternoon's pre-season fixture against Southland at Whitestone Contracting Stadium.

Palanappa Mafi joins his brother Tavite Mafi in the front row with Munster hooker Mike Essex. Regular lock from last season Aisake Fonua makes his debut with big South African lock Duncan Nuad, who is getting further match time for the Otago selectors.

Ross Hay, who has been out with injury, returns to openside flank, with Paulo Fonokalafi replacing an injured Saisoni Tongo Tongo at six. Joe Mamea will again captain the side from number eight.

North Otago will field a new inside back combination in Hamish McKenzie and Jason Forrest, while Excelsior's Will Kofoed makes his debut on the left wing with Old Boys' Isitola Hafoka starting at fullback.

No Alhambra-Union players have been selected for this game as they are involved in Dunedin club rugby playoffs. Fraser Fletcher, who played as a hooker for North Otago last season, returns to the reserves after signing up with the Maheno club, while new additions to the reserve bench are Zingari-Richmond lock Brady Carmichael and Green Island utility back Tamati Tamakehu.

For the side it will be another opportunity to impress, according to Mike Mullins.

"We've had quite a few changes. A new front row, a new locking combination, a new loose forward combination with Ross Hay coming back. The nine and tens have changed [and there will be] an opportunity for Jason Forrest to show how versatile he could be. Unfortunately, in our province, we don't have any tens.

"Will Kofoed comes in - he's deceptively quick which is one thing I've noticed over the past two seasons and we don't have much depth on the wings this year.

" Isitola [Hafoka], who starred in the Citizens shield final two years ago, has gradually got over a knee injury and we're hoping he can bring back some of that form."

Southland has also not selected players involved in club play-offs, but coaches Simon Culhane and David Henderson have a forward pack led by Jason Rutledge and an impressive centre/wing/fullback combination in Kenny Lynn, Glen Horton and one of the stars of the New Zealand under 20 World Cup team, Robbie Robinson.


• THE TEAMS

North Otago: Isitola Hafoka, Ofa Fatai, Ekeroma Sefo, Lemi Masoe, Will Kofoed, Jason Forrest, Hamish McKenzie, Joe Mamea (c), Ross Hay, Paulo Fonokalafi, Duncan Naud, Aisake Fonua, Palanappa Mafi, Mike Essex, Tavite Mafi.
Reserves: Fraser Fletcher, Josh Collier, Ralph Darling, John Blakely, Uilisoni Tahitua, Brady Carmichael, Nick Webster, Harry Masoe, Tamati Tamakehu, Holaipalavi Tahaafe.

Southland: Robbie Robinson, Glen Horton, Kenny Lynn, Seminar Manu, Nick McGrath, John Dodd, Sonny Rangitohere, Maifea Maifea, Dion Bates, Ben Nalley, Joe Tuineau, Alex Ryan, Fai Mika, Jason Rutledge, Michael Peterson.
Reserves: Urbain Lawrence, Nick Barrett, Craig Smith, Hua Tamariki, Jason Richan, James Wilson, Adam Thomas.

- Terry O'Neill

 

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