Preview: Tasman v Canterbury

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Saturday, October 18, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Saturday 18 October, 7.05pm at Trafalgar Park, Nelson
Played: 9, 2007-2014
Tasman wins: 3 | Canterbury wins: 6

Squad update: Tasman have made plenty of changes for this one, bringing Jimmy Cowan, Marty Banks, Bryce Heem and Kieron Fonotia into the starting team.

Peter Samu, Shane Christie, Alex Ainley, Quentin MacDonald and Tim Perry constitute the remainder of the nine changes from the team that lost 16-21 to Counties.

Head Coach Scott Robertson has named his side, which has four changes to the starting fifteen that beat Taranaki last weekend with halfback and captain Willi Heinz returns to the side having recovered from a knee injury.

Props Daniel Lienert-Brown and Alex Hodgman have rotated positions so that Lienert-Brown starts at loosehead and Hodgman starts off the bench.

Adam Whitelock and Rob Thompson have also switched spots, with Whitelock starting at second five this week and Thompson providing backline cover in the reserves, while Richie Mo’unga slots back into the fullback position this week with Colin Slade away with the All Blacks.

Form: To say making wholesale changes ahead of their final round clash was folly for Tasman is difficult to assess as the team would have been refreshed although the defeat to the Steelers cost them top spot on the table.

Other than that the Makos have been a delightful outfit to watch throughout the season, playing what looks to be a high tempo style of rugby, but intense examination will reveal that the side is well drilled and plays within a solid system.

Canterbury would have been thrilled how effectively they came back to defeat top qualifiers Taranaki, stopping a run of three straight defeats.

While dominant in the rivalry with six wins to three, Tasman posted their highest winning score against the red and blacks a few weeks ago, but one suspects that a colder and more ruthless champion will turn up on this evening.

Last match: Tasman 38 Canterbury 10, 04.10.14 in Christchurch (ITMC)

Last Canterbury win: Canterbury 28 Tasman 13, 24.08.13 in Blenheim (ITMC)

Biggest Tasman score: 38 (38-10), 04.10.14 in Christchurch (ITMC)

Biggest Canterbury score: 48 (48-10) 10.10.08 in Christchurch (ANZC QF)

Biggest differential: Canterbury by 38 (48-10) 10.10.08 in Christchurch (ANZC QF)

Key players: Cowan and Banks have emerged as the senior playmaking axis for the Makos, and the combination of the first five’s boot and the aggressive street smarts of the former All Blacks halfback has been notable.

Heem and Fonotia add menace out wide but the restoration of what looks to be Tasman’s full strength pack will be key, the likes of MacDonald and Liam Squire have been immense, but they will come across a very irate Canterbury eight.

Matt Todd has been one of the best forwards of the season throughout the ITM Cup, and while his combination with Nasi Manu and Luke Whitelock hasn’t been ominous in recent weeks, if they fire the Makos will be in trouble.

The return of Heinz cannot be understated, while strike wings Johnny McNicholl and Patrick Osbourne will look for their opportunities as the title holder’s look so dangerous when spreading their attack around the paddock.