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Premiership preview: Auckland v Counties Manukau

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Friday, August 17, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

Referee: Glen Jackson

Played: 60 (1956-2017)
Wins: Auckland 45, Counties Manukau 14, Drawn 1
Last match: Counties Manukau 16 Auckland 14 (August 19, 2017)

TALE OF THE TAPE


The Dan Bryant Memorial Trophy again goes on the line in this local derby.

While Auckland has historically had the wood on its southern neighbours, in more recent times the Steelers have had the edge. Last season in Pukekohe, another campaign opener, the Steelers’ physical approach paid dividends in a clash that never reached any great heights. The home side took the win 16-14 but neither side was able to kick on and reach the Premiership semifinals.

Auckland’s pack is shorn of Marcel Renata and Patrick Tuipulotu, so the Steelers will seek to target the tight five. Prop Marco Fepulea’i debuted for Auckland in 2017, played club rugby in Counties Manukau in 2018, and is now back with Auckland for the Mitre 10 Cup.

Of interest in the home team’s squad is how Orbyn Leger, at second five, will push on from a solid season at the Blues, where he saw extensive game time. Wing Sione Molia is back from sevens duty and keen to show his wares after missing all the 2017 programme. Tongan international Latiume Fosita played for Auckland last season, but will run the cutter for the Steelers.

Auckland should be slight favourites.

The curtainraiser, at 3pm, will feature King’s College versus St Peter’s College in the Auckland 1A First XV final. This clash always draws a decent crowd.

JUICY MATCH-UP

How does Akira Ioane up against Sam Henwood grab you in the key No 8 match-up?

Akira Ioane is coming off a strong season for the Blues, while Henwood, who played four times for Auckland in 2011, impressed when he received his chance at the Hurricanes. He is a tireless fetcher and tackler, so will have the older Ioane brother on his toes. The Steelers, as ever, have a muscular loose trio, but Auckland can counter with talent, lineout ability and new captain Blake Gibson’s work-rate.

QUICK TAP: TUIPULOTU LIKES AUCKLAND'S CHANCES

THE INSIDE WORD

Alama Ieremia is happy with what he has seen at club level and pre-season, and is confident his new charges will give a good account of themselves.

“We’ve got a squad we feel confident that can get the job done and we’ve had a good warm-up with two pre-season games to date. Some players have been rewarded for their performances in those, so we’re pretty excited about the challenge to come from Counties Manukau.

We’ve had several high quality performers put their hand up, especially around the club finals. I’m excited to see how these key players in club rugby go up in the Mitre 10 Cup environment,” says the former All Blacks midfielder, who was appointed to the Auckland head coach’s role in December.


TEAMS
Auckland:
Jordan Trainor, Melani Nanai, Tumua Manu, TJ Faiane, Salesi Rayasi, Harry Plummer, Leon Fukofuka, Akira Ioane, Blake Gibson (c), Dalton Papali’i, Jack Whetton, Jamie Lane, Marco Fepulea’i, Mike Sosene, Jarred Adams
Reserves: Leif Schwencke, Sam Prattley, Taniela Koroi, Evan Olmstead, Hoskins Sotutu, Jonathan Ruru, Daniel Kirkpatrick, Jacob Umaga

Counties Manukau: Kali Hala, Sione Molia, Nigel Ah Wong, Orbyn Leger, Tevita Nabura, Latiume Fosita, Te Aihe Toma, Sam Henwood (c), Fotu Lokotui, Mike McKee, Matiaha Martin, Viliame Rarasea, Kalolo Tuiloma/Coree Te Whata-Colley, Joe Royal, Howard Sililito
Reserves: Gafatasi Su’a, Mark Royal, Coree Te Whata-Colley/Abraham Falani, Sikeli Nabou, Matt Vaai, Liam Daniela, Cardiff Vaega, Sam Furniss