Sopoaga to come off bench for Stags in pre-season match

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 07/08/2014
Lima Sopoaga
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COMEBACK KID: Lima Sopoaga celebrates his try in the Highlanders’ ill-fated comeback against the Reds.

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Highlanders pivot Lima Sopoaga will make his first appearance for the Stags tomorrow from the bench in a pre-season match against Otago in Alexandra.

The 23-year-old was Southland's big off-season signing. He joined the Stags setup this week in the buildup to their opening National Provincial Championship game against Bay of Plenty, in Invercargill, on August 16.

Sopoaga is one of five Super Rugby players who have joined the Stags this week and coach Brad Mooar has chosen to introduce them from the bench tomorrow in the pre-season game.

The only Super Rugby player who will start against Otago is midfielder Cardiff Vaega, with Sopoaga, Jamie Mackintosh, Josh Bekhuis and Elliot Dixon all to be introduced later. Fellow Super Rugby player John Hardie remains on the injured list.

The Stags will carry an extended bench of 14 players for tomorrow's game to include everyone in the squad.

It looks as if the preferred Southland starting XV may in fact be used later in the game tomorrow rather than at the start.

Sopoaga and Dixon have both seen plenty of game time through the Super Rugby season while Vaega, Mackintosh and Bekhuis were used sparingly and are likely to be fresh heading into the start of the provincial campaign.

Southland will be after a much better showing than last Saturday when they were beaten 40-38 by Heartland Championship team Mid Canterbury in their first pre-season game.

Most of the concern centred around their defence and it would have been a talking point during training this week.

The game will be played at Molyneux Park, in Alexandra, and will start at 2.30pm.

Stags team to play Otago: Mark Jackman, Lolohea Loco, Cardiff Vaega, Willis Halaholo, Keanu Kahukura, Jamie Verran, Taylor Adams, Bill Fukofuka, Alex Taylor, Brenton Howden, Mike Stewart, Craig Smith, Morgan Mitchell, Talemaitoga Tuapati, Tony Keresoma. Reserves; (forwards) Jamie Mackintosh, Jason Rutledge, Michael Fatialofa, JP Koen, Josh Bekhuis, Tim Boys, Elliot Dixon, Dillon Halaholo (backs), Junior Ngaluafe, Otulea Katoa, Warrick Lynn, Lima Sopoaga, Scott Eade, Bryan Milne. 

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- The Southland Times

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