Manawatu face a tall order when taking on Championship leaders Tasman in Blenheim on Sunday afternoon in the last game of the ITM Championship round robin series which will decide the last semi-finals berth in the competition.
WALKING WOUNDED: Tasman will be without Liam Squire who has a calf strain while top scoring wing James Lowe and livewire hooker Quentin McDonald are being rested. Manawatu will have Nehe Milner-Skudder back for the first time since the Southland game after his hamstring injury while Fraser Stone is likely to be on the bench after getting over neck concerns.
FORM: All the form is with Tasman in this encounter. They have won four in a row, and their loss to North Harbour (12-23) has to be seen as a rogue result. Along the way they have beaten Hawke’s Bay (18-9), Northland (28-13), Waikato (64-28) and Taranaki (27-20). By comparison, Manawatu have won three of their last five games with the most recent being over Taranaki (12-6) and Northland (22-16).
WE THINK: Manawatu have everything to play for in this encounter. A win would see them past Southland and into the Championship play-offs. A loss by less than seven points along with a bonus point try would also be sufficient for Manawatu to advance as they beat Southland in their round-robin game. It won’t be an easy achievement for the visitors as they have struggled in their brief history to beat Tasman. The home side also have a need to maintain momentum heading into the play-offs and while they have rested some players they are still fielding a more than useful combination. Tasman by 7.
Tasman: 1. Tim Perry, 2. Francis Smith, 3.Sila Puafisi, 4.George Stowers, 5.Joe Wheeler, 6. Gary Redmond, 7.Shane Christie (captain), 8. Tevita Koloamatangi, 9.Billy Guyton, 10.Marty Banks, 11.Mitchell Scott, 12.Tom Marshall, 13.Kieron Fonotia, 14. Bryce Heem, 15.Robbie Malneek.
Reserves: 16. Quentin MacDonald, 17.Siua Halanukonuka, 18. Tevita Cavubati, 19.Vernon Fredericks, 20.Mark Swanepoel, 21.Andy Symons, 22.Mike Wells.
1. Chris Eves, 2. Rob Foreman, 3. Ma’afu Fia, 4.Nick Crosswell, 5. Michael FitzGerald, 6. Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 7. Callum Gibbins (c), 8. James Oliver, 9. Papa Wharewera, 10. Jade Te Rure, 11.Newton Tudreu, 12.Tevita Taufu’i, 13.Jason Emery, 14.Nehe Milton-Skudder, 15. Lewis Marshall.
Substitutes: 16.Bryn Templeman, 17.Jared Brock, 18.Fraser Stone, 19.Antonio Kiri Kiri, 20.Nic Starzaker, 21.Hamish Northcott, 22.Leroy van Dam.