Injury rules McKenzie out for Stags
Marty McKenzie will cheer on his team-mates from Invercargill after succumbing to an ankle injury which has ruled him out of tomorrow's championship semifinal against Tasman, in Blenheim.
The Blues Super Rugby utility had battled on manfully over the past two weeks after sustaining an ankle injury when he was taken out illegally during the win over Otago.
While McKenzie looked to have recovered well enough to play against Hawke's Bay the following week, the issue resurfaced during the Ranfurly Shield loss to Counties Manukau last week.
His place at first-five will be taken by Scott Eade, who moves out one spot from his now regular gig at halfback, while Tayler Adams gets an opportunity to start inside Eade.
"We'd like him there but he tells us he's going backwards," Stags coach David Henderson said.
"Scott's excited about doing the job and Tayler deserves a chance to start the way he's been playing off the bench."
Ironically, the injury to McKenzie means Southland will have the same inside back combination they started their campaign against Tasman in the opening round with.
The Stags appear to be genuinely looking forward to the challenge of a game few people give them much chance of winning.
They board two early morning flights from Invercargill today bound for Nelson, followed by a 114km bus ride to Blenheim.
Southland, by their own admission, have been average in important areas of the game over the past two weeks, but their win under the roof in Dunedin showed all the hallmarks of a team which deserved to be in the playoffs.
"We've played a couple of tough teams. Hawke's Bay matched us physically and we didn't react well to that and against Counties individual errors let us down and we were chasing the game," Henderson said.
"Tasman beat us earlier in the year and we know they are a good team, but this is a one-off."
McKenzie's injury has also offered an opportunity on the bench to Marist outside back Will Murray, who has previously represented Southland Metro and the Southland sevens team.
Tasman have their own injury issues with skipper Shane Christie ruled out after failing a concussion test.
Highlanders flanker Joe Wheeler will lead the amalgamated team in his absence.
Tasman: James Lowe, Bryce Heem, Kieron Fonotia, Tom Marshall, Mitchell Scott, Marty Banks, Billy Guyton, Liam Squire, Gary Redmond, Tevita Koloamatangi, Joe Wheeler (captain), Alex Ainley, Sila Puafisi, Quentin MacDonald, Tim Perry. Reserves; Francis Smith, Siua Halanukonuka, Tevita Cavubati, Vernon Fredericks, Mark Swanepoel, Andy Symons, Robbie Malneek.
Southland: Robbie Robinson, Bryan Milne, Cardiff Vaega, Willis Halaholo, Keanu Kahukura, Scott Eade, Tayler Adams, John Hardie, Hale, Michael Fatialofa, Josh Bekhuis, Nick Barrett, David Hall, Jamie Mackintosh (captain). Reserves; Talemaitoga Tuapati, JP Koen, Hale T-Pole, Naulia Dawai, Nemia Kenatale, Calvary Fonoti, Will Murray.
- © Fairfax NZ News