North Harbour ready for historic Shield defence
June 28, 2007

North Harbour concede they haven't exactly been poring over hours of video analysis ahead of their maiden Ranfurly Shield rugby defence against Thames Valley on Saturday.

Captain Nick Williams even cheekily suggested one of the management team had ventured into Swamp Fox territory to spy on a pre-season game but neglected to take his notebook.

That attitude may indicate a degree of complacency on behalf of North Harbour, who defend the shield for the first time at Albany Stadium -- and if so, it is entirely understandable.

They may be lacking the services of Tony Woodcock, Luke McAlister and Greg Rawlinson plus Junior All Blacks Anthony Tuitavake and Rudi Wulf, but North Harbour should hardly need the impact of the representative quartet against a Heartland Championship side who will bring passion, enthusiasm but realistically little else to a perfunctory early season runaround.

"We respect the opposition," new North Harbour coach Wayne Pivac emphasised, before adding a rider.

"We still feel we can trial some things in this game.

"So far we've put a lot of emphasis on strength and conditioning coming into the campaign, we haven't done a lot of work with the ball."

Despite North Harbour's relaxed attitude Pivac has named a raw looking team, including seven provincial debutants in the starting 15, and five more on the bench.

Representative commitments and end-of-season departures have impacted on Pivac's first squad, with only six survivors from the 22 who stunned Canterbury 21-17 last September, fronting on Saturday.

"There's a few more changes than you'd normally see but a lot of these young guys have played well in age group sides and the club competition."

One notable inclusion is Ken Pisi, the youngest of three brothers, on the wing in the absence of incumbents Vili Waqaseduadua and Wulf.

Blues utility George Pisi will play at fullback while Tusi Pisi, part of the Crusaders Super 14 squad this year, will call the shots at first five-eighth.

Thames Valley and North Harbour's other pre-Air New Zealand Cup defence against Horowhenua-Kapiti on July 14 are essentially trials before Pivac finalises his 26-man squad for a Cup campaign that has challenges scheduled from Taranaki, Waikato, Manawatu, Bay of Plenty and Southland.

The seven new starters are props James Afoa and Ben Afeaki, hooker Tom McCartney, flanker Robert Colhoun, halfback Luke Hamilton, second five-eighth Michael Harris and Ken Pisi.

North Harbour: George Pisi, Ken Pisi, Puanani Hunia, Michael Harris, Zar Lawrence, Tusi Pisi, Luke Hamilton, Nick Williams (captain), Robert Colhoun, Anthony Boric, Doug Fletcher, Ryan Wilson, Ben Afeaki, Tom McCartney, James Afoa.

Reserves: Roger Dustow, Sam Biddles, Chris Smith, Richard Mayhew, Daniel Deveraux, Jack McPhee, Tua Saseve.

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