Fri, Oct 1, 2021 4:32 PM
Willy Havili will start at fullback for the Mako against the Stags on Sunday. Photo: Shuttersport (File)
A disconcerting run of injuries in the Tasman Mako camp has resulted in a reshuffled side being named for Sunday’s Bunnings NPC round five encounter with Southland at Lansdowne Park.
Long-term injuries to flanker Sione Havili Talitui, winger Mark Telea, centre Fetuli Paea and prop Ryan Coxon, plus less serious issues for lock Pari Pari Parkinson, midfielder Alex Nankivell and No 8 Shannon Frizell have tested Tasman’s resources to the max.
Added to this is the unavailability of fullback Tom Marshall, who has now rejoined his Japanese club.
Fortunately, there is plenty of depth in the Mako tank and the selectors were able to come up with an exciting, talent-laden side to take on the Stags.
Powerhouse hooker Andrew Makalio has earned his first start of the season after coming off the bench against the Mooloo men. Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, this week named in the Fijian Drua side to contest the 2022 Super Rugby competition, comes in for Parkinson at lock.
Youngster Anton Segner steps into the big boots of Frizell at No 8, a reward for some strong showings this year.
The backline is again tweaked. Levi Aumua moves in a place to second five, replacing Tim O’Malley, with Leicester Fainga’anuku taking over the centre’s role. Macca Springer, who made a good fist of his debut from the bench last week, comes onto the left wing, with Willie Havili taking Marshall’s position at fullback.
On the bench, Mahonri Ngakuru and Max Hicks cover lock and loose forward while a new face on the Mako scene is New Zealand Sevens speedster Regan Ware, who has been called on as outside back injury cover.
Southland, who lost to Otago and Bay of Plenty pre-lockdown, will have taken plenty of confidence from their golden point loss to Canterbury last weekend. Although a championship side, they are a gritty, dangerous team who will fancy their chances of knocking over the defending champs on the pristine new Lansdowne Park turf.
Tasman have slipped to third on the points table, trailing Waikato and Hawke’s Bay. Consequently this looms as a must-win match after last weekend’s reversal against Waikato and ahead of their rare Ranfurly Shield challenge against Hawke’s Bay on October 9.
Indicative of the evolving face of the Mako side, and NPC teams in general, only six of Sunday’s run-on side started last year’s match against the Stags at Trafalgar Park, won 47-10 by the home side. Expect a much tighter affair this time around.
The Mako team to play Southland at Lansdowne Park on Sunday, kick-off 2.35pm, is: 1 Isi Tu’ungafasi, 2 Andrew Makalio, 3 Sam Matenga, 4 Quinten Strange (co-captain), 5 Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 6 Hugh Renton, 7 Jacob Norris, 8 Anton Segner; 9 Jack Grooby, 10 Mitch Hunt (co-captain), 11 Macca Springer, 12 Levi Aumua, 13 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 14 Timoci Tavatavanawai, 15 Willie Havili.
Sparkies (bench): Quentin MacDonald, Luca Inch, Atu Moli, Mahonri Ngakuru, Max Hicks, Louie Chapman, Tim O’Malley, Regan Ware.
There will be no public ticket sales for Sunday due to COVID alert levels.