Southland open their Ranfurly Shield defence against the Steelers on Friday, with Counties out to win the Log o'Wood for the first time.
Southland open their Ranfurly Shield defence against Counties Manukau on Friday, with the Steelers out to win the Log o'Wood for the first time.
The Stags will know they're in for a tough day at the office by keeping one of New Zealand's prized trophies safe in Invercargill when the Steelers come to town.
Counties Manukau came mighty close in their last Shield challenge against Southland last year, losing 13-9.
Formed in 1955, the Steelers have never won the Ranfurly Shield despite some desperately close calls, including two draws.
But a draw is not good enough, and the visitors will need to play out of their skins if they are to create history at Rugby Park Stadium in this ITM Cup crossover match.
Playing in the 'Championship' division in 2011, Counties Manukau have won two from three this year and are buoyant ahead of this quest.
“We've got to take it from them,” Steelers fly-half Tasesa Lavea told the Southland Times.
“Play the brand that we know. Everyone knows the style Counties like to play and we're not going to disappoint. It's going to be something special if we pull it off.”
Southland won the Ranfurly Shield off Canterbury last Saturday and will be favourites to pull off another victory in wet conditions forecast for Friday's game.
Southland: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Glen Horton/Kade Poki, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Matt Saunders, 11 Tim Cornforth, 10 James Wilson, 9 Scott Cowan, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 Tim Boys, 6 John Hardie, 5 Joe Tuineau, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Nic Barrett, 2 David Hall, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Chris King, 18 Ben Nally, 19 Kaleni Taetuli, 20 Sonny Rangitoheriri, 21 Scott Eade, 22 Tony Koonwaiyou, 23 Micheal Peterson.
Counties Manukau: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Tyrone Lefau, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Niva Ta'auso, 11 Sherwin Stowers, 10 Tasesa Lavea, 9 Samisoni Fisilau, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 DJ Forbes, 6 Adam Cathcart, 5 Jamie Chipman (c), 4 Ronald Raaymakers, 3 Jeremiah Fatialofa, 2 Mark Price, 1 Simon Lemalu.
Replacements: Mark Selwyn, Matt Talaese, Grant Henson, David Bason, James Semple, Reynold Lee-Lo, Ihipa Thompson.