Preview: Manawatu v Waikato

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Friday, August 21, 2015    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Form: As one would expect from the newly promoted men from Manawatu, the Turbos look like they belong in the Premiership, they pushed Counties all the way with their storming comeback in Pukekohe while scoring an impressive 35 points in a one-point losing effort.

Otere Black was polished leading his team around the field in a match where the Turbos were guilty of basic errors, from taking too long to build into the contest through to letting the Steelers dictate terms at the breakdown.

These errors were only more obvious because when it clicked for Manawatu, they really looked sharp.

The Turbos pack looked better as the contest progressed, and they will be given a stern examination by a Waikato outfit that struggled against the tempo Tasman set during their respective contest last week.

The Mooloo lost 20-35 to the Makos and will be wary of how the visitors last week were able to dominate proceedings at the close of each half, Waikato will be wary of Manawatu’s ability to shift gears during a match and know they can’t switch off as they did at times during round one.

Saturday 22 August, 2.35pm at Arena Manawatu, Palmerston North
Played: 26, 1921-2014
Manawatu wins: 6 | Waikato wins: 18 | Draws: 2

Last match: Manawatu 22 Waikato 20, 27.09.14 in Hamilton (ITMC)
Last Waikato win: Waikato 27 Manawatu 25, 14.10.10 in Palmerston North (ITMC)
Biggest Manawatu score: 54 (54-20), 20.08.11 in Palmerston North (ITMC)
Biggest Waikato score: 52 (52-15), 27.03.93 in Palmerston North (NPC)
Biggest differential: Waikato by 37 (52-15), 27.03.93 in Palmerston North (NPC)

Squad update: Notable changes to the side that face Waikato include the return of halfback Kayne Hammington who slots into the starting halfback role with Jamie booth playing from the bench.

Newton Tudreu is unavailable for selection due to a knee injury set to keep him out for four weeks. Netwon’s injury sees Hamiora come into jersey the number fifteen with Semisi Masirewa moving to the wing.

The return of Heiden Bedwell-Curtis on the blindside sees Kiri Kiri move to number 8 with Mark Atkins being pushed to the bench. The tight five contingent of Adrian Barone, Rob Foreman, Michael Alaalatoa, Fraser Stone and Tom parsons will start again as they look to build on some impressive maul work from last week.

Young first five Sam Malcolm comes onto the pine and will be itching to make his debut in the green and white. Lock Valentino Mapapalangi maintains his position on the bench as he looks to build on some strong plays in the first game of the season.

Waikato All Blacks Liam Messam and Tawera Kerr-Barlow, released for this match by the All Blacks coaching staff, have both been named in the starting lineup.

The other changes to the Waikato side from their first up loss to Tasman sees prop Loni Uhila get a start in place of the injured Atu Moli, with uncapped prop Joe Walsh coming onto the bench, and James Tucker starting at lock after making his debut from the bench last weekend.

Key players: Callum Gibbins as expected was one of the principal drivers of Manawatu performance last weekend, when the pack needed to lift the openside was at the forefront of efforts.

Rob Foreman, Tom Parsons and Fraser Stone were part of a good effort against the Counties pack, but the tight five will know they didn’t manage to boss the match in any way, so if the Turbos set piece can resemble the platform seen in 2014 then they will be confident of gaining their first competition points of the year.

Waikato is bolstered by the return of two All Blacks, and it isn’t just the class that Messam and Kerr-Barlow bring to the starting team, it will be the standards they would have imposed on the squad during the week after a 15 point opening round loss.

Damian McKenzie and his backs looked like they might have unleashed last weekend, but unfortunately the Mooloo looked like a side playing early in the season, captain Whetu Douglas will be keen to see his troops reduce the error rate against an exciting home team who won 54-20 the last time they hosted the Mooloo on this ground.