Counties Manukau have made one change to their team to take on Waikato in their Ranfurly Shield showdown in Pukekohe on Saturday.
Counties coaches Tana Umaga and Steve Jackson have made one change to their team to play Waikato in their Ranfurly Shield match on Saturday.
Simon Lemalu is out this weekend with a calf strain. He will be replaced by Sam Aiono in the front-row with Matt Talaese coming into the 22.
The backline includes key players Bundee Aki and Baden Kerr, with both Frank Halai and Sherwin Stowers offering running threats wider out.
“We have all been impressed by the support we have received over the last few weeks and hope to play in front of a full stadium again,” said Umaga.
“Our motivation levels are high – it is another opportunity for us to keep the Ranfurly Shield and Waikato are coming off a good performance, so we need to be consistent.”
Meanwhile, Waikato have made three changes to their forward pack that beat Auckland last weekend and another two changes in the backline for the game at ECOLight Stadium.
Prop Ben Tameifuna returns after missing the Auckland match through suspension, while lock Brian Alainu'uese (ankle) and flanker Jack Lam (hamstring) are out with injury. They are replaced in the starting line-up by Nick Ross and Jono Armstrong.
In the backs Sam Christie and Dylan Collier come off the bench to start at fly-half and left wing, replacing Wharenui Hawera and Semisi Masirewa who drop to the bench.
Also named on the bench is veteran lock Sean Hohneck who is in line to make his first Waikato appearance since 2005.
“We showed good character last weekend to get a breakthrough win over Auckland and our challenge now is to build on that and get some consistency, starting with Counties this Saturday,” said Waikato head coach Johnny Walters.
The way the draw has fallen means that Waikato has been given the chance to take back the Ranfurly Shield just one month after losing it to Otago.
“The players are motivated and excited to go up there and back up our performance from last week. We have put in a good week of work and prepared well, and now we are looking to transfer that into starting well on Saturday to give us an opportunity to win,” Walters added.
Counties: 15 Sherwin Stowers, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Toni Pulu, 10 Baden Kerr, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Fritz Lee (capt), 7 Maama Vaipulu, 6 Adam Cathcart, 5 Jimmy Tupou, 4 Ronald Raaymakers, 3 Jarrod Firth, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Sam Aiono.
Replacements: 16 Suliasi Taufalele, 17 Matt Talaese, 18 Sikeli Nabou, 19 Sean Reidy, 20 Kane Hancy, 21 Ahsee Tuala, 22 Sam Vaka.
Waikato: 15 Trent Renata, 14 Tim Mikkelson, 13 Save Tokula, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Dylan Collier, 10 Sam Christie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Adam Burn, 7 Jono Armstrong, 6 Rory Grice, 5 Sam Kilgour, 4 Nick Ross, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Vance Elliott, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Sean Hohneck, 19 Zak Hohneck, 20 Mick Snowden, 21 Wharenui Hawera, 22 Semisi Masirewa.
Date: Saturday, September 21
Kick-off: 14:35 local (03:35 BST, 02:35 GMT)
Venue: ECOLight Stadium, Pukekohe
Referee: Chris Pollock