Red Devils forced into changes

JOHN ALEXANDER
Last updated 10:50 03/07/2012

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Injuries and unavailabilities have forced Marlborough rugby selector-coaches Steve Crockett and Peter Jones to make several changes to the Red Devils team to take on South Canterbury in a representative match at Manderville in North Canterbury tomorrow.

Centre Bryce Heem, a standout on debut against North Canterbury, will not be released to play by the Tasman Rugby Union while three-try scorer against North Canterbury last week wing Kieran Hickman has a leg injury, as has flanker Joe Stewart.

Lock Dan Crockett is unavailable while prop James Hounslow is injured and lock Brian Utumapu is away this week. Forward James Pigou's availability is yet to be confirmed.

Marlborough's next match, the start of their Seddon Shield defences against Buller, is not until August 4, but head coach Crockett is adamant the match against South Canterbury is an important one.

"We are going to have to narrow our squad down for the Seddon Shield matches so it's a chance for some newcomers to impress."

Among the new caps are Moutere utility back Benji Keenan who starts on the right wing while Awatere's Nick Pope is on the left wing making his senior provincial representative debut.

Tasman Makos backup squad player George Millar returns to representative duties at fullback with Rawiri Tamati on the bench. Contracted Makos prop Tim Perry starts on the bench as he did against North Canterbury. Perry's Harlequins captain Simon Muir starts at hooker and Daniel Karena comes into the starting XV.

Marlborough thrashed a weak North Canterbury side 53-0 in Blenheim last week, leading 43-0 at halftime, but Crockett is expecting much more fight from a South Canterbury squad which includes ex-Moutere forward Jonathon Andrews and is preparing for the Heartland competition.

Crockett said, "We'll keep to our plan and when I ask for structure in the second half I want it. It is important to get on top of them early.

"They'll come at us a bit more than North Canterbury did. South Canterbury are a better drilled, more accurate side."

Fitness and superior conditioning played a significant part in Marlborough's demolition of North Canterbury and Crockett believes it should be a factor again tomorrow. Marlborough beat South Canterbury at the same venue 35-15 last year but it certainly was a harder-earned win than the final scoreline suggested.

Kickoff is at the later than usual time of 5.30pm. The South Canterbury team had not been selected at the time of writing.

Marlborough: George Millar, Benji Keenan, Jake Cresswell, Onolevu Temo, Nick Pope, Daniel Hawkins, Daniel MacDonald, Dale Russ, Nathan Oakley, Stu Dalzell, Stu Campbell (cpt), Daniel Karena, Fetu Ieremia, Simon Muir, Kurt Lindsay.

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Subs: Gareth Archer, Tim Perry, James Giles, Willie Alaiasa, Rawiri Tamati, two to be added.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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