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Preview: Canterbury v Southland

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Friday, October 9, 2015    ITMCup.co.nz    Getty Images

The visitors head to Christchurch with history on their side, having pipped Canterbury 28-26 last year in the garden city. Will history repeat, will Canterbury ensure they don't have a case of deja vu on their hands.

Form:
Canterbury rebounded from their historic 21-24 loss to Taranaki two weeks ago with an impressive 41-25 victory over Tasman in Nelson. They had struggled prior to the Taranaki loss, pipping Waikato (18-17) and North Harbour (17-10) in the weeks building up to the loss. What must be remembered, though, was the side that lost to Tasman was the side's second string team as they played their second of three games in 11 days. Tom Taylor was in impressive form, scoring 21 points to confirm Canterbury's home-semifinal.

Southland, meanwhile, have lost two on the bounce since their stunning 49-14 win over Manawatu in Invercargill. They were embarrassed 61-7 by a building Otago in their southern derby clash a fortnight ago, and that was followed by a 28-35 loss at home to Championship front-runners Hawke's Bay. Despite an improved showing in their home clash against the Magpies, their seven-point loss ensured their season would not extend to the playoffs.

Played: 102
Wins: Canterbury 71 Southland 28, Draws 3
Last Time: Canterbury 26 Southland 28, Christchurch 2014

Teams:
CANTERBURY: 1.Joe Moody, 2.Ged Robison, 3.Nepo Laulala, 4.Ben Matwijow, 5.Dominic Bird, 6.Reed Prinsep, 7.Tom Sanders, 8.Luke Whitelock (captain), 9.Mitchell Drummond, 10.Richie Mo'unga, 11.Milford Keresoma, 12.Rob Thompson, 13.Ryan Crotty, 14.Johnny McNicholl, 15.Cameron McIntyre.

Reserves: 16.Ben Funnell, 17.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18.Siate Tokolahi, 19.JJ Manning, 20.Mitchell Dunshea, 21.Jack Stratton, 22.Tom Taylor, 23.Marshall Suckling.

SOUTHLAND: 1.Jamie Mackintosh (captain), 2.Dillan Halaholo, 3.Guy Millar, 4.Josh Bekhuis, 5.Michael Stewart, 6.Phil Halder, 7.Tim Boys, 8.Bill Fukofuka, 9.Liam Howley, 10.Lima Sopoaga, 11.Mike Molloy, 12.James Schrader, 13.Kieran Moffat, 14.Junior Ngaluafe, 15.Tauasosi Tuimavave.

Reserves: 16.David Hall, 17.Reuben Northover, 18.Morgan Mitchell, 19.Joel Everson, 20.Mike McKee, 21.Scott Eade, 22.Ash Moeke, 23.Willis Halaholo.

Squad Update: Tom Taylor drops out of the starting XV, a surprise given his superb performance against Tasman a week ago. As for Southland, Jamie Mackintosh returns following his mandatory one-week ban from his red card against Otago.

Key Players: Scrum time should be an even contest for two sides boasting the joint third most successful scrum in the competition. For Canterbury, Ryan Crotty and Rob Thompson have developed into a dynamic centre partnership and one that opposing second five-eighths and centre James Schrader and Kieran Moffatt will have to contain early if they are to remain in contention.

If Southland want to take advantage of a Canterbury weakness, it's their lineout. Southland have the sixth-best lineout success rate (86.6 percent) in the competition compared with their Cantabrian counterparts (83.9 percent). Josh Bekhuis has been a big part of that success and put on a stunning display for Southland in a losing effort to Hawke's Bay. Meanwhile, Mackintosh will have extra incentive to perform on Saturday after failing to secure a contract for the 2016 Super Rugby season. He will be desperate to show he still has plenty to offer at the next level.