Stags add starch to backline for Waikato clash

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 05/09/2013
Marty McKenzie
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
STEPPING UP: Marty McKenzie has been given the nod at first-five.

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Southland will feature a beefed-up backline for tomorrow night's national provincial championship crossover game against Waikato.

Woodlands second five Willis Halaholo has been called in for his first start in a maroon jersey, combining with Cardiff Vaega in the midfield.

Bryan Milne, who has been impressive in his Stags comeback, moves out to the right wing from centre, with Marty McKenzie replacing Scott Eade at first five in a reshuffled backline which sees only Tayler Adams, Tim Conforth and Robbie Robinson retain their jerseys from the loss to Taranaki.

Stags coach David Henderson said McKenzie's selection at first five was about keeping the players fresh.

The Blues rookie has shown up at fullback, on the wing and on the bench so far this season, but looked sharp when he replaced Eade against Taranaki.

"We have just got to be mindful, and that will happen with the forwards too, that we can't continue to play the same guys all the time. Marty deserves a shot at 10 also and I think he went pretty good when he came on the other day," Henderson said.

Milne played much of his early career for Southland on the wing, and Henderson said he was keen to keep his ball-carrying abilities on the park.

Henderson also wanted to see Milne running off Halaholo and Vaega.

A decision on who would take over the kicking duties hadn't been made.

McKenzie and Adams are the prime candidates to take over the kicking tee from Eade.

Henderson said Robinson had not been concentrating on his goal kicking since returning from the Chiefs, possibly due to an ongoing groin injury.

Meanwhile, Henderson had discussed with officials a controversial scrum which led to Taranaki's game-breaking try last Saturday.

Southland believed the ball had not been hooked and when it popped out Taranaki spun it wide for a try which eventually proved the difference.

"I spoke to the referees and the decision clearly should have been that the ball should have been put back in. That's the good relationship that we've got now, we query some of those decisions and we get clarity. We don't look back now, it's behind us, but we are clear now on what the rules are."

Southland: Robbie Robinson, Bryan Milne, Cardiff Vaega, Willis Halaholo, Tim Cornforth, Marty McKenzie, Tayler Adams, Elliot Dixon, Tim Boys, John Hardie, Michael Fatialofa, Josh Bekhuis, Nick Barrett, David Hall, Jamie Mackintosh (captain). Reserves; Talemaitoga Tuapati, Tuki Raimona, Hale T-Pole, Naulia Dawai, Nemia Kenatale, Gareth Williams-Spiers, Scott Eade.

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Waikato: Trent Renata, Tim Mikkelson, Jackson Willison (captain), Joe Perawiti, Save Tokula, Wharenui Hawera, Brad Weber/Kylem O'Donnell, Adam Burn, Jack Lam, Rory Grice, Sam Kilgour, Brian Alainu'uese, Ben Tameifuna, Brayden Mitchell, Toby Smith. Reserves; Vance Elliott, Paul Alo-Emile, Nick Ross, Jono Armstrong, Weber/O'Donnell, Sam Christie, Semisi Masirewa.

- The Southland Times

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