BAY OF PLENTY v OTAGO
Status: Crossover match
When: Thursday August 30, 7.35pm
Where: Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua
Referee: Shaun Elliott (Auckland)
THE STEAMERS will need to be swiftly back into their work after the disappointing 22-37 reverse in round one to Taranaki.
Happily they will have the services of Sam Cane, meaning they will not be short of breakdown ball, but not Brodie Retallick.
Otago too, fresh off a 46-34 victory at home against the Taniwha, will have no less than three All Blacks back on deck. Ben Smith re-joins the fray and will play fullback.
HAWKE’S BAY v COUNTIES MAN.
When: Friday August 31, 7.35pm
Where: McLean Park, Napier
Referee: Ben Skeen (Auckland)
THE MAGPIES look as if they are finding life in the Premiership very challenging
After dropping their opening two games, they will be in deeper trouble if they feel the Steelers will be a soft touch, because Tana Umaga’s men gave Southland a lesson in intensity at the contact area and in the set-piece.
Counties Manukau will have the edge out wide.
CANTERBURY v NORTH HARBOUR
When: Saturday September 1, 2.35pm
Where: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Referee: Keith Brown (Southland)
THE MAKE-UP of Canterbury’s line-up will be dependent on how they pull up after last night’s victory against Auckland.
The defending champions do welcome back All Blacks prop Wyatt Crockett, who will look to get the better of Harbour skipper Ben Afeaki in the scrums.
WAIKATO v NORTHLAND
Status: Crossover match
When: Saturday September 1, 5.35pm
Where: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Referee: Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri (Auckland)
WAIKATO WILL be buoyed by putting 40 points on North Harbour to kick off its campaign.
The Mooloos had some prime performers in that 42-22 win in Albany, though few better than halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow. They will fancy that they can put the squeeze on the Northland pack, which needs to feed more ball to the likes of Rene Ranger out wide.
Waikato blooded several youngsters in the opener, though flanker Marty Holah is out with a fractured ankle.
TARANAKI v TASMAN
Status: Crossover/Ranfurly Shield
When: Saturday September 1, 7.35pm
Where: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
Referee: Vinny Munro (Canterbury)
THE TASMAN Makos have never held the Ranfurly Shield, but one of their forerunners – Marlborough – held the famous Log o’ Wood briefly in 1973-74.
They will be throwing the kitchen sink at this one after lowering the defending ITM Cup champs 25-22 in the upset of round one action.
The good news for Taranaki is that All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore is being released for this match. The bad news is that fullback Andre Taylor is out for up to six weeks with a serious hand injury.
AUCKLAND v MANAWATU
When: Sunday September 2, 2.35pm
Where: Eden Park, Auckland
Referee: Nick Briant (Bay of Plenty)
THERE IS a narrow margin for error in such a compacted competition.
Auckland, which had Piri Weepu debuting last night, is 1-1 after going down to Canterbury last night.
The Auks were impressive in patches against Hawke’s Bay last Thursday night in the 36-29 victory, but outplayed by the red and blacks. A fine day will aid their aim of expansive rugby.
The Turbos are seeking to bounce back from an 11-30 loss to Wellington.
WELLINGTON v SOUTHLAND
Status: Crossover match
When: Sunday September 2, 4.35pm
Where: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Matt Muir (Canterbury)
WELLINGTON HAD the luxury of fielding both Julian Savea and Victor Vito on Tuesday night against Hawke’s Bay.
The Lions came through that match after a second half comeback and they will be confident of inflicting more pain on the Stags, who were toothless – barring Kade Poki – in the 30-9 hiding inflicted by the Steelers.
Jeremy Thrush’s lineout battle with Josh Bekhuis should be fascinating.
This is the second of three Sunday 4.35pm matches for Southland.
NORTH HARBOUR v COUNTIES MAN.
When: Tuesday September 4, 7.35pm
Where: North Harbour Stadium, Albany
Referee: Glen Jackson (Bay of Plenty)
BOTH TEAMS are coming off short turnarounds, so how they rotate their squads could be decisive.
Coaches Liam Barry (North Harbour) and Tana Umaga (Counties) had contrasting openings to the ITM Cup. In 2011 the Steelers edged this fixture, 40-32 in Pukekohe.
The scrums were positives for both sides from round one, and there is plenty of pace and talent in the respective backlines.
NORTHLAND v MANAWATU
When: Wednesday September 5, 7.35pm
Where: Toll Stadium, Whangarei
Referee: Garratt Williamson (Wellington)
IN PALMERSTON North last season, the Turbos won this clash 30-22.
In 2010 the Taniwha won 77-8 in Whangarei. But all bets are off here in what shapes as a very tight encounter.
The Turbos have just over three days to recover from the Auckland match, while Northland has just four to get over Waikato.
Expect the ball to get plenty of air.
There are plenty of mouth-watering clashes on offer this weekend.
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