Vahaakolo injury prompts backline reshuffle

Winger Freedom Vahaakolo is out for Friday's game against Northland. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Freedom Vahaakolo. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Otago will be without Freedom Vahaakolo for tomorrow night’s semifinal.

The electric winger is set to miss the side’s Mitre 10 Cup Championship semifinal against Northland at Forsyth Barr Stadium through injury.

His absence has prompted a backline reshuffle.

Vilimoni Koroi moves over to the fill the spot on the right wing.

That leaves Michael Collins to drop to fullback and Josh Timu to come in at centre.

There remains plenty of flair in the line-up, although Vahaakolo is a big loss, having scored seven tries in 10 games.

The other notable change comes in the reserves, where Thomas Umaga-Jensen will make his Otago debut.

The 22-year-old midfielder previously played for Wellington and has battled injury this year.

He has also played seven games for the Highlanders.

In the forward pack, Dylan Nel comes in at No8 for Nasi Manu, who drops to the reserves, while Sam Fischli is a late change at No6 for Charles Elton.

Josh Dickson is the only other change, returning at lock and partnering Jack Regan, with Will Tucker on the bench.

He brings back plenty of quality, which will be a boost heading into a crunch game.

It will also be Josh Hohneck’s blazer game for Otago — his 15th.

While Otago comfortably won its last meeting against Northland, it heads into this game on a run bad form.

It is coming off losses to Southland and Tasman, having been particularly scratchy in the first of the two.

Northland beat Waikato last week to snap a four-game losing streak.

It has named a side with a handful of useful players Otago will have to contain.

Jordan Hyland and Jone Macilai will present a challenge out wide, while former All Black Rene Ranger lines up at centre.

Blues halfback Sam Nock provides quality at the base, while Kara Pryor and Tom Robinson are a strong duo in the flanks.

Otago coach Tom Donnelly could not be reached for comment.

Otago v Northland

Forsyth Barr Stadium, tomorrow, 7.05pm
Otago: Michael Collins, Vilimoni Koroi, Josh Timu, Sio Tomkinson, Jona Nareki, Josh 
Ioane, Kayne Hammington, Dylan Nel, Slade McDowall,  Sam Fischli, Josh Dickson, 
Jack Regan, Josh Hohneck, Ricky Jackson, Jamie Mackintosh. Reserves: Henry Bell, 
Sef Fa’agase, Hisa Sasagi, Will Tucker, Nasi Manu, James Arscott, Thomas Umaga-
Jensen, Matt Whaanga.
Northland: Mathew Wright, Jordan Hyland, Rene Ranger, Tamati Tua, Jone Macilai, 
Johnny Cooper, Sam Nock, Sam McNamara, Kara Pryor, Tom Robinson, Sam Caird, 
Josh Goodhue, Coree Te Whata-Colley, Jordan Olsen, Luatangi Li. Reserves: Paddy 
Atkins, Ross Wright, Kalolo Tuiloma, Kane Jacobson, Matt Matich, Will Grant, 
Wiseguy Faiane, Scott Gregory.

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