Wellington v Counties Manukau, ITM Cup
Tana Umaga names experienced Steelers
October 16, 2013
Wellington defeated the Steelers in the opening match of the 2013 season © Getty Images

Counties Manukau have named a largely unchanged team to play Wellington Lions in their ITM Cup premiership semi-final in Wellington on Friday, coach Tana Umaga making only a couple of tweaks to the team that defeated Southland 25-7 last Saturday to lock up the Ranfurly Shield for the summer.

Prop Jarrod Firth moves to loose-head and Matt Talaese starts at tight-head, while experienced prop Simon Lemalu moves onto the bench.

Umaga named Baden Kerr after the five-eighth had been listed as "questionable" with a groin strain sustained against Southland. Kerr missed two matches earlier in the season due to a severe thigh haematoma, when he was replaced by Ahsee Tuala and Ki Anufe. Umaga said he may yet hand the goal-kicking dutues to Tuala, who has assumed the fullback role vacated by Sherwin Stowers.

The match provides a chance for the Steelers to exact a measure of revenge on Wellington Lions, who slammed them 55-16 in the opening match of the ITM Cup in mid-August.

"This is a big game for us," Umaga said. "We have achieved a lot this season, but everyone wants to make the top four and we have worked hard to get this opportunity to challenge ourselves again."

Chris Boyd's Lions had claimed nine consecutive wins before they were stunned by Hawke's Bay in the final round of the regular season, and Umaga said his Steelers would likely face some form of backlash in Wellington.

"We obviously realise that they're the number one team and we've got to go down there and take it to them and be at our best," Umaga said. "The pressure is on them as well as us. We put pressure on ourselves to perform and play the way we've played all year and our guys are keen for it."

Counties Manukau Steelers: Ahsee Tuala; Frank Halai, Rey Lee-Lo, Bundee Aki, Toni Pulu; Baden Kerr, Kane Hancy; Friz Lee, Maama Vaipulu, Adam Cathcart; Jimmy Tupou, Ronald Raaymakers; Matt Taraese, Hika Elliot, Jarrod Firth. Replacements: Suliasi Taufalele, Simon Lemalu, Sikeli Nabou, Mark Selwyn, Lucky Palamo, Ki Anufe, Sam Vaka.

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