The Manawatu Turbos have rejigged their backline in the hope of shoring up their defence ahead of their game against Northland in Whangarei tonight.
Auckland gave Manawatu a 59-16 hiding in their ITM Cup match on Sunday on the back of a lot of weak tackling, so Turbos coach Jason O'Halloran has made a few changes, with a new-look midfield set to run out tonight.
After watching the tape of the Auckland game, which was "pretty tough for a few of them", O'Halloran wanted to make sure they didn't have a repeat of the huge number of defensive lapses.
"Look to inject a couple of new guys and hopefully provide a bit of spark, being a bit better defensively from set piece especially," he said.
Matenga Baker replaces Frankie Bryant, who drops out of the 22, at second five-eighth, and Jason Emery comes in at centre.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma is shunted to the wing from centre in place of George Tilsley, who moves to the bench.
In the forwards, Grant Polson and Ma'afu Fia are the new props, replacing American Eric Fry who is on the bench and David Te Moana.
No 8 Hamish Gosling is out with a shoulder injury, so James Oliver will start and Antonio Kiri Kiri comes on to the bench.
Bryant and Tilsley seemed to have paid the price for missing tackles against Auckland but it was a simple fix as far O'Halloran was concerned for tonight.
"Stop conceding such soft points. We can't hope to compete if we're giving up such soft points."
O'Halloran and assistant Wesley Clarke only had a couple of days to turn their fortunes around but he was confident of an improved performance.
"Certainly the structure will be a lot better. Hopefully the awareness will be a lot better and we're after that individual commitment to make that tackle. I can't give them that but with Wesley and I, we can put a structure in place."
O'Halloran said Northland have a gnarly forward pack and have a solid set piece that can set up dangerous players like Rene Ranger in the backs.
"At the end of the day it's two premiership sides we've played.
"The key is we got to beat the championship sides. [Northland's] the first side on our side of the draw."
After a poor performance against Auckland, O'Halloran wasn't keen on a repeat of the 77-8 thrashing they received from Northland in Whangarei two years ago.
"Certainly would hope not. I was running bottles that day and it was pretty embarrassing, to be honest. Got to make sure from minute one to 80 we're prepared to make a tackle."
The Turbos will be playing a former team-mate as well, with former Turbos and Kia Toa prop Peni Kaufusi on the bench for Northland.
Kickoff is at 7.35pm tonight.
- © Fairfax NZ News