Fri, Nov 5, 2021 6:40 PM

Mako team named to take on Lions tomorrow

Jacob Norris returns to the starting loose forward mix for tomorrow's must-win match at Lansdowne Park. Photo Shuttersport

Peter Jones

The Tasman Mako selectors have made minimal changes to the starting line-up named to take on Wellington in a make-or-break match at Lansdowne Park tomorrow.

If Tasman have visions of claiming a third consecutive NPC premiership title, they need to prevail in what looms as a virtual quarterfinal.

There are two changes in the pack. Hometown hero Quentin MacDonald replaces Andrew Makalio at hooker, while Jacob Norris comes in for Hugh Norris on the blindside of the scrum.

There is just one change in the backline, former NZ Sevens player Regan Ware stepping in for the outstanding Timoci Tavatavanawai on the right wing.

Renton and Tavatavanawai will sit on the bench, where they will be joined by Sam Moli, who gets the nod after being left out of the match day 23 last weekend.

Due to the fact Auckland, Counties Manukau and North Harbour have not participated in the latter stages of the NPC, the premiership points table is somewhat confusing.

Currently Tasman sit in sixth position, just outside the top-four play-offs. Hawke’s Bay are assured of hosting a semi-final, sitting proudly atop the standings with 38 points. Waikato, who play Otago in Hamilton this evening, are next on 26, followed by Wellington on 25, then Bay of Plenty, who take on Canterbury in Christchurch on Saturday afternoon, on 24.

Tasman are level with the Red and Blacks on 23 points, possessing a better points differential, but lagging behind Canterbury due to their head-to-head record this season.

Interestingly, Wellington have banked nine bonus points this season to Tasman’s three, a significant advantage come play-off time.

There will be several scenarios in play on Saturday, especially if Otago upset Waikato tonight. Tasman could rise as high as second position with a bonus point win, coupled with losses by Waikato and Bay of Plenty.

One thing is very obvious though - a loss to the Lions will bring a premature end to a Mako season that began with so much expectation.

The Mako team to play Wellington at Lansdowne Park, Blenheim on Saturday, kick-off 2.05pm, is: 1 Isi Tu’ungafasi, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 3 Sam Matenga, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 5 Antonio Shalfoon, 6 Jacob Norris, 7 Anton Segner, 8 Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta; 9 Louie Chapman, 10 Mitch Hunt (co-captain), 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 12 Alex Nankivell, 13 Levi Aumua, 14 Regan Ware, 15 Andrew Knewstubb.

Sparkies (bench): Sam Moli, Luca Inch, Isaac Salmon, Max Hicks, Hugh Renton, Jack Grooby, Tim O’Malley, Timoci Tavatavanawai.

BIG MATCH INFO

Tasman v Wellington - Lansdowne Park

Kick off: 2.05pm, Saturday, November 6. Gates open from 12.45pm.

West Stand tickets for people 13 & over = $20 + fees (Kids 12 & under free

Embankment for people 13 & over = $15 + fees (Kids 12 & under free)

Tickets available at i-Sites Blenheim & Picton or online https://mako.flicket.co.nz/

Covid Level 2 guidelines:

Do not attend if unwell.

Face masks are recommended.

Use your Tracer App into the venue or sign in manually.

Only use the access Aisle on your ticket.

Do not mix with people from other bubbles.

Maintain 1m distancing from people outside your ticket allocation.

There will be no alcohol beverage sales.