Southland and Taranaki both out to heal pain
There's a certain irony in the fact Taranaki is coming to Invercargill to try and recover from a horror Ranfurly Shield loss midweek.
Taranaki, who were odds-on to defend the shield through an entire season before derailing in spectacular fashion against Waikato on Wednesday, are returning to Southland where they took the shield last season.
And while the amber-and-blacks will be hurting, they won't be in any less pain than a Southland team which has done its share of navel-gazing this week after an 84-nil hammering from Canterbury on Sunday which tarnished the big gold S which adorns the Stags jersey.
"In the time I've been involved in the Southland team we've never played like that, that's for sure," veteran Stags loose forward Dion Bates said yesterday.
"A measure of a team is how you get back up and rip back into it. Hopefully the boys will be up for it - I'm sure they will. I watched the interview after the game with the Taranaki captain and just about the same things that went wrong with his team went wrong for us against Canterbury."
Bates is enjoying a second burst of representative rugby after missing out entirely on the Southland squad last year as the younger Alex Taylor was preferred.
The 31-year-old has had to play behind John Hardie and Tim Boys for much of his career, but has still racked up more than 50 games for his province.
With Hardie and Taylor both suffering injuries, Bates was recalled early in the Stags' campaign. These are the last days of his playing career as he retired at the end of the club season after giving sterling service to his beloved Pirates/Old Boys.
Having not played for Southland since 2010, Bates has been concentrating on getting through his building apprenticeship.
He's grateful to the support of his employer, Trevor Tomlins, for the time off he has been able to take during his rugby career.
"The boss has been pretty lenient. I wouldn't have been able to say yes to Southland to help them out if Trevor hadn't been like that. He was great back when I was in the Stags fulltime as well."
Even if Bates hadn't been recalled this season, he would have been happy with his lot as a representative player.
"It feels like I was in the right era. We had a great bunch of guys and some good results. I think the whole time I was there we made the play-offs most years and obviously there was the Ranfurly Shield," he said.
"Every team has to go through a rebuilding phase though, and I'm sure the young guys in this team will take things through to the next tenure."
The return of Taylor from an arm injury sees Dion Bates move to the bench for tomorrow's game, while Mark Wells will start on the right wing in his 50th appearance for Southland.
Nemia Kenatale returns at halfback after injury and Jason Rutledge is back in the starting 15.
Taranaki have made seven personnel changes, and three positional changes, from the shield loss with Timo Tutavaha coming in at hooker, Kane Barrett and Berny Hall added to the side of the scrum, and Jarrad Hoeata switching to No 8.
Halfback Brett Goodin and first five-eighth Jack Cameron will start with Isaia Tuifa at second five-eighth while Kurt Baker moves to centre.
Jackson Ormond comes on to the wing while James Marshall moves to fullback.
Andre Taylor and former Southland player Willie Rickards have both been ruled out because of concussion, with Richards ruled out for the remainder of the season.
Meanwhile, Nathan Hohaia, who transferred from Taranaki to Southland this season, will play no further part with the Stags after damaging an AC joint in his shoulder during a training session last week. Marist midfielder Keanu Kahukura has been called into the squad and the 19-year-old will make his debut if he gets onto the field.
AT A GLANCE
What: Southland v Taranaki, Rugby Park, 2.35pm tomorrow
Record v Taranaki: Played: 51 Won: 20 Lost: 30 Drawn: 1
Last game: Taranaki 15 Southland 12, 24.08.11 in Invercargill (ITMC, RS)
Southland: Marty McKenzie, Mark Wells, Cardiff Vaega, Matt Saunders, Tim Cornforth, Scott Eade, Nemia Kenatale, Elliot Dixon, Tim Boys, Alex Taylor, Alex Ryan, Josh Bekhuis, Nic Barrett, Jason Rutledge, Jamie Mackintosh (captain). Reserves; Brayden Mitchell, Micheal Peterson, Michael Fatialofa, Dion Bates, Tayler Adams, Matt Gandy, Keanu Kahukura.
Taranaki: James Marshall, Jackson Ormond, Kurt Baker, Isaia Tuifua, Frazier Climo, Jack Cameron, Brett Goodin, Jarrad Hoeata, Berny Hall, Kane Barrett, Jason Eaton, Craig Clarke (captain), Michael Bent, Timo Tutavaha, Chris King. Reserves: Laurence Corlett, Carl Carmichael, James Broadhurst, Blade Thomson, Jamison Gibson-Park, Jayden Hayward, Seta Tamanivalu.
Referee: Nick Briant
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