Preview: Southland v Auckland

Date published: August 12 2015

Auckland head coach Paul Feeney has named a young side as they look to kick-off their ITM Cup campaign with a win over Southland on Thursday.

Eleven players will make their Auckland debut at Rugby Park in Invercargill – for seven of those it will also be their first provincial match at this level.

"Half of the guys will be pulling on the blue and white hoops for the first time which is very exciting. They don't really have reputations yet, they'll be hoping to forge them this season," head coach Feeney told Auckland's official website.

"Southland in Invercargill presents a tough challenge but we have prepared well and are looking forward to getting down there."

Tighthead prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi will captain the side in the absence of Simon Hickey and is looking forward to the opportunity.

"It's an incredible responsibility to lead the team out for the first game of the season. It's an honour to be captain this week and then to work with Simon (Hickey) and our senior leaders for the rest of the season," said Tu'ungafasi.

Tu'ungafasi's younger brother Isi is set to debut from the bench.

Michael Fatialofa and Calvary Fonoti will run out for the first time in an Auckland jersey but are in familiar territory, both having played for the Stags in previous seasons.

"These guys are playing against a lot of their old team mates so they know exactly what we're in for. They are looking forward to the challenge," added Feeney.

Front-rowers Greg Pleasants-Tate and Jono Owen also debut for Auckland after previous ITM Cup seasons with North Harbour and Counties Manukau respectively.

The team features ten players who were involved in the 2015 Super Rugby season and four who were members of the World Championship winning New Zealand U20s.

The teams:

Southland: 15 Junior Ngaluafe, 14 Lolohea Loco, 13 Keiran Moffat, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Keanu Kahukura, 10 Ash Moeke, 9 Scott Eade, 8 Bill Fukofuka, 7 Tim Boys, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joel Everson, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Morgan Mitchell, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Replacements: 16 Dillan Halaholo, 17 Rueben Northover, 18 Guy Millar, 19 Michael Stewart, 20 Alex Taylor, 21 Liam Howley, 22 James Schrader, 23 Sean Conner.

Auckland: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Vince Aso, 12 George Moala, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Jono Hickey, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Joe Edwards, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Michael Fatialofa, 3 Ofa Tuiungafasi, 2 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 Jono Owen, 17 Kurt Eklund, 18 Isi Tu’ungafasi, 19 Williams Lloyd, 20 Taleni Seu, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Calvary Fonoti, 23 Lolagi Visinia.

Date: Thursday, August 13
Venue: Rugby Park, Invercargill
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Kane McBride