Auckland return home with a win over the Stags firmly in their sights. The blue and white hoops currently sit outside a semi-final spot, but know that positive results in the final two rounds will give them every chance at playing finals footy in 2019.
Auckland are boosted this weekend by the returns of Scott Scrafton and Dalton Papalii to the forward pack. Scrafton returns to his customary spot in the second-row alongside ever-present Jack Whetton, while Papalii will don the #6 jersey allowing Adrian Choat to continue in his favoured openside role. Waimana Riedlnger-Kapa will start from the off at No.8 with the front-row remaining unchanged from Tasman.
The backline also sees a slight re-shuffle in personnel. Jonathan Ruru takes over the halfback role alongside first-five Harry Plummer. TJ Faiane has a new partner in the midfield with Tanielu Tele’a beside him at centre. Salesi Rayasi returns to the starting side on the left wing with Caleb Clarke and Jordan Trainor rounding out the back-three.
Head Coach Alama Ieremia is adamant that the team is looking to put last Friday night behind them and put in a performance to be proud of.
“It was pretty disappointing obviously last week with the result, particularly walking away with no points. The boys have recovered well though and we had a good honesty session and training yesterday, so we’re actually pretty excited heading into Southland knowing we still have a chance to make the semis.”
With key players back in for this week, Scott Scrafton and Dalton Papalii in particular, Ieremia is well aware of what the two will bring come Saturday.
“They bring a lot of enthusiasm and experience, and they’ve really fired into their work this week. They’re leaders in their roles, and as a leader you tend to do what’s best with the rest following on from there.”
Match Day Programme
Auckland team to play Southland:
Unavailable due to injury: Cameron Suafoa (shoulder), Hoskins Sotutu (ankle), Lyndon Dunshea (knee), Blake Gibson (knee)
Level 6 North Stand, Gate B, Walters Rd, Eden Park,
Mount Eden, 1024
PO Box 56-152, Dominion Road, Auckland 1446
09 815 4850