Birthday boy seeks Stag party
Keanu Kahukura will celebrate his 20th birthday by making his starting debut for Southland against Tasman tomorrow.
The Marist utility, who played one game off the bench against Taranaki last season, has been named on the right wing for the Stags in the NPC season opener after impressing during club play and the pre-season, coach David Henderson said.
"It'll be a nice birthday present for him if we win," Henderson said.
"He's a finisher and he's got silky skills. He showed us that when he played against the Highlanders in Dunedin. He's still got a long way to go, and he may not end up on the wing as his final position, but he's got size and a bit of pace and I think he'll do well."
The two most competitive positions, hooker and halfback, have gone to David Hall ahead of Talemaitoga Tuapati and New Zealand under-20 player Tayler Adams ahead of Nemia Kenatale.
"They were close calls with those ones. We've gone for experience at hooker and halfback, Tayler communicates better at this stage and he probably understands the systems a bit better.
"Those are things we are working on with Nemia to get him up to speed," Henderson said.
The Stags forward pack features no lack of experience. Skipper Jamie Mackintosh and Hall have both played 90 or more games for Southland, while Josh Bekhuis (82), Hale T-Pole (51) and John Hardie (45) are NPC veterans.
Impressive Crusaders fullback Tom Marshall will be a threat to the Stags defence, while Tasman have also named fellow Super Rugby players Shane Christie and Joe Wheeler in their side.
Southland: Marty McKenzie, Keanu Kahukura, Bryan Milne, Cardiff Vaega, Tim Cornforth, Scott Eade, Tayler Adams, Elliot Dixon, John Hardie, Hale T-Pole, Michael Fatialofa, Josh Bekhuis, Nick Barrett, David Hall, Jamie Mackintosh (c). Reserves: Talemaitoga Tuapati, Tuki Raimona, Craig Smith, Naulia Dawai, Nemia Kenatale, Willis Halaholo, Gareth Williams-Spiers. Tasman: Tom Marshall, Bryce Heem, Kieron Fonotia, Andy Symons, James Lowe, Hayden Cripps, Mark Swanepoel, George Stowers, Shane Christie (c), Liam Squire, Joe Wheeler, Alex Ainley, Sila Puafisi, Quentin MacDonald, Tim Perry. Reserves: Francis Smith, Siua Halanukonuka, Tevita Cavubati, Tevita Koloamatangi, Kaide Whiting, Mike Wells/Billy Guyton, Mitchell Scott.