Air New Zealand Cup - Round 8 Preview
Auckland and Harbour set for huge clash
September 15, 2009
Paul Williams will be out to power Auckland past North Harbour © Getty Images
Round eight of the Air New Zealand Cup kicked off on Thursday with Bay of Plenty defeating Tasman at Mount Maunganui and Southland dispatching Counties Manukau. Click Here for the full review.
Friday's action sees Canterbury host Taranaki and Waikato face off against Wellington. Waikato coach Chris Gibbes has reacted to last weekend's loss to Tasman by bulking up his pack.
He has opted for Romana Graham to partner Kevin O'Neill at lock, and brought in up-and-coming prop Latu Talakai at tighthead for the injured Nathan White. He has left the backline mostly unchanged, with the exception of halfback, where 19-year-old Tawera Kerr-Barlow is included ahead of David Bason.
Auckland and North Harbour go head-to-head on Saturday in one of the classic clashes in New Zealand rugby. Auckland have made three changes for the game at Eden Park. One was forced by injury, with one young winger, Teddy Stanaway, replacing another, Dave Thomas, who is out for six months with knee ligament damage.
The other changes are in the pack, with Tom McCartney back at hooker and, in a reshuffle, Jay Williams in at lock and No 8 Chris Lowrey, who returned from injury last Sunday, going to the bench.
Harbour suffered a blow when skipper Anthony Tuitavake, who is returning from a groin strain, was ruled out after training. Tuitavake's injury means lock Anthony Boric, who last weekend had his first match since breaking a toe in April, takes over as captain.
Among other changes to the line-up that began the 34-17 defeat to Hawke's Bay are the return from injury of first five-eighth Michael Harris and hooker James Parsons.
Later, Hawke's Bay take on Otago. Otago call on former rugby league start Michael Witt at fly-half, alongside Sean Romans, while up front veteran prop Kees Meeuws will led his experience. The round concludes on Sunday, with Manawatu's home tie against Northland.