Sportal.co.nz 13.Oct.2012Getty Images
VENUE & TIME: Trafalgar Park, Nelson, Saturday October 13 @ 1935
HEAD TO HEAD: Played 4; Tasman 1, North Harbour 3.
LAST TIME: July 19, 2011 (Albany) - North Harbour 39-15 Tasman.
WALKING WOUNDED: Tasman has made a few changes, mostly in the pack, for this game. Veteran internationals Campbell Johnstone and Filipo Levi will not play, while Shane Christie starts on the bench. Peter Betham has also been given a break although he, too, is waiting in the reserves should he be needed. North Harbour has kept close to the side that played Auckland, although Michael Hobbs is back at first-five and Codey Rei goes to fullback. A little positional juggling does not hide the fact the Harbour coaches have found a lineup that will give the game a shake.
Round 5: lost to Northland 17-20 (h)
Round 6: lost to Otago 13-39 (a)
Round 7: lost to Waikato 19-20 (a)
Round 8: beat Bay of Plenty 17-3 (h)
Round 9: beat Counties-Manukau 28-19 (a)
Round 5: lost to Manawatu 20-23 (h)
Round 6: lost to Otago 25-54 (a)
Round 7: lost to Southland 17-27 (h)
Round 8: lost to Wellington 28-34 (a)
Round 9: lost to Auckland 16-36 (h)
Tasman secured its semi-final place with a good win at Pukekohe, becoming the first Championship side to defeat Counties this year. The Makos won the breakdowns and turned enough chances into points to always be ahead of the game. Deadly finishing by Robbie Malneek and Peter Betham, backed up by good goal-kicking from Tom Marshall, was enough to get Tasman home comfortably and they are still a chance of finishing top of the division if results fall their way on the weekend.
North Harbour was always going to struggle against Auckland, and that was clear right from the first scrum when Auckland put a bulldozer through the home pack. The visitors also scored a couple of early tries but Harbour hung tough for the first 40 and turned with only a small deficit. From there, however, things got predictable. Auckland gradually strangled Harbour, gave up nothing and scored a couple of tries themselves to push Harbour to 0-9 on the season.
WHO'S HOT: The Tasman forwards did a fine job at Pukekohe, led by an impressive loose trio. Shane Christie, who starts on the bench this time, was a non-stop dynamo who gave Counties endless trouble at the breakdown and forced one turnover after another. He has been very good all season. No 8 Jordan Taufua is another who has turned in a big season, with his strong ball-carries always a feature. He has a good understanding of all the requirements of his position and has been a large part in most of Tasman's best moments. Robbie Malneek may be a veteran of 100 provincial matches now but has lost none of his pace or his eye for a chance; his try was yet another of the fine individual efforts he has produced in 2012. He's also steady and reliable on defence - one of those veteran players every team covets but few have a better one.
North Harbour will, once again, look to its tight five in this game since the big men have not been 0-9 material. Chris Smith has soldiered on manfully, winning his lineouts all season and doing his share around the park. He has enjoyed the best season of his career to date. James Parsons has also been reliable, feeding an accurate lineout and getting around the park in bustling style. He has a good turn of pace in the open, and a willingness to get involved in the rugged physical exchanges. It's behind the scrum that things have not clicked for harbour this season and the backline has never been really settled. As a result, we've seen almost nothing of Rudi Wulf, who should have been a player every team had cause to be wary of. In 2012, however, he's been just another player and he will want something better to sign off with before heading back to France.
WE THINK: Tasman should win this game and collect a home semi; the Makos have been efficient and Harbour has not. If they get in front, as they did at Pukekohe, the Makos are doubly tough to break down and they tend to put their games away. North Harbour is yet to win a second half in 2012, which is trouble however you look at it, and that inability to press on will likely hurt one more time.
Tasman: 1. Tim Perry, 2. Quentin MacDonald, 3. Sam Prattley, 4. Riki Hoeata, 5. Joe Wheeler, 6. Tevita Kolomatangi, 7. Gary Redmond, 8. Jordan Taufua, 9. Steve Alfeld, 10. Hayden Cripps, 11. Robbie Malneek, 12. Andrew Goodman (capt), 13. Kieron Fonotia, 14. Albert Nikoro, 15. Tom Marshall.
Reserves: 16. Francis Smith, 17. Reuben Northover, 18. Tevita Cavubati, 19. Shane Christie, 20. Jeremy Su'a, 21. Peter Betham, 22. James Lowe.
North Harbour: 1. Alex Woonton, 2. James Parsons, 3. Ben Afeaki (capt), 4. Chris Smith, 5. Filo Paulo, 6. Irwin Finau, 7. Malakai Ravulo, 8. Viliami Fihaki, 9. Brenton Helleur, 10. Michael Hobbs, 11. Rudi Wulf, 12. Francis Saili, 13. Cory Aporo, 14. Nafi Tuitavake, 15. Codey Rei.
Reserves: 16. James Penman, 17. Salesi Manu, 18. Glenn Preston, 19. Jordan Manihera, 20. Bryn Hall, 21. Pita Ahki, 22. Luke Devcich.
REFEREE: Mike Fraser