Wellington and Auckland will battle it out for a place in the ITM Cup final when the two in-form sides go head to head in the NZ capital.
Wellington and Auckland will battle it out for a place in the ITM Cup final when the two in-form sides go head to head in the New Zealand capital.
Wellington and Auckland ended the regular season with eight wins and two losses, but the latter lost out on a home play-off because they only picked up five bonus points while the Lions had seven.
When the two sides played each other last month Auckland won 43-30 at Eden Park. But since that Round Nine game, Wellington have been unbeaten and are looking like a quality side.
And that defeat to Auckland provides all the motivation the Lions need going into Saturday's re-match at Westpac Stadium which plays host to Wellington's first semi-final since 2009.
“If you look at the competition, the games lost by most teams have been away from home funnily enough,” said Auckland coach Wayne Pivac.
“Everyone's got a pretty good record at home including Wellington so they'll be a lot more difficult down there I'd imagine.”
Wellington have earned a reputation as the 'bridesmaids' of New Zealand rugby, having finished runners-up 11 times – including four in a row between 2006 and 2009 – and would relish an opportunity to go one better should they make it into next weekend's final.
Auckland, however, will be doing everything they can to maintain their proud record in New Zealand's provincial tournament which has seen them reach the semi-finals seven times and win the title on four occasions since 2000 when Wellington claimed their last title.
Prediction: Tough to call. Both side's are pretty evenly matched on paper, and carrying some good form with them into this knock-out clash. Wellington do have the advantage of playing at home, however, so for that reason alone we're going for the Lions by four!
Wellington: 15 Charlie Ngatai, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Alapati Leiua, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Jason Woodward, 10 Tim Bateman, 9 Frae Wilson, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Ross Filipo, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Jeremey Thrush (c), 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Eric Sione, 18 Lua Lokotui, 19 Genesis Mamea, 20 Kayne Hammington, 21 Lima Sopoaga, 22 Ambrose Curtis.
Auckland: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Ben Lam, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Dave Thomas, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Joe Edwards, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams/Andrew Van der Heijden, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: Nathan Vella, Siosiua Halanukonuka, Van der Heijden/Nathan Hughes, Sean Polwart, Scott Patterson, Simon Hickey, Lolagi Visinia.