Preview: Tasman v Hawke's Bay

Date published: August 16 2014

Shane Christie wiill lead a powerful Tasman side in their ITM Cup opener against Hawke's Bay in Blenheim on Sunday.

Shane Christie will lead a powerful Tasman side in their ITM Cup opener against Hawke's Bay in Blenheim on Sunday.

This clash is a repeat of last year's Championship Final – won 26-25 by the Makos – and Tasman will be determined to hit the ground running after their promotion to the Premiership.

Tasman coaches Kieran Keane and Leon MacDonald have picked several of the players which secured them promotion.

Openside flanker Christie is joined in the back row by Chiefs team-mates Liam Squire and Tevita Koloamatangi while Joe Wheeler and Alex Ainley pack down in the second row.

In the front row, hooker Quentin MacDonald and loosehead prop Tim Perry are joined by South African tighthead Ross Geldenhuys, who has represented the Lions at Super Rugby level.

There's a surprise in the back-line, with former All Blacks scrum-half Jimmy Cowan – who joined Tasman from Aviva Premiership side Gloucester – confined to the replacements bench while Billy Guyton starts in the number nine jersey.

Keane explained his reasoning behind the selection.

“Billy is the incumbent,” he told the Nelson Mail.

“We've got a new man who has come into the region and is learning our game, our structures.

“It just made sense to me to have the incumbent starting. Jimmy has the ability to close out games as well, there are some real plusses there for us.

“Early in the season we feel a little bit underdone, so it's better to go with the familiar.”We made a conscious effort to go with the people who played in the [2013] final.

“It's probably more about familiarity at this stage, people who know how each other plays, rather than injecting new blood.

“It makes life a little bit easier for the players and takes away some of the clutter that exists at the moment.”

Marty Banks is at fly-half for Tasman alongside Tom Marshall and Kieron Fonotia, who form a dangerous midfield combination. Ryan Tongia starts at full-back while Richard Buckman and Mitchell Scott are on the wings.

For Hawke's Bay the big news is that Chiefs centre Robbie Fruean will make his debut in this fixture. He is joined in midfield by Andrew Horrell while

The back three comprises of Ryan Tongia at full-back and Richard Buckman and Mikey Vuicakau on the wings, while Blues pivot Ihaia West Western Force scrum-half Chris Eaton are the halfbacks.

Up front, openside flanker Brendon O'Connor leads the team while Gareth Evans and Trent Boswell-Wakefield are his fellow loose forwards.

Mark Abbott and Mike Allardice are the starting locks while hooker Ash Dixon packs down alongside Jason Marshall and Brendon Edmonds in the front row.

The teams:

Tasman: 15 James Lowe, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Tom Marshall, 11 Mitchell Scott, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Billy Guyton, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Shane Christie (c), 6 Tevita Koloamatangi, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Jesse MacDonald, 17 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 18 Tevita Cavubati, 19 Vernon Fredericks, 20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 David Havili, 22 Ben Tyler.

Hawke's Bay: 15 Ryan Tongia, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 Mikey Vuicakau, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Chris Eaton, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Brendon O'Connor (c), 6 Trent Boswell-Wakefield, 5 Mark Abbott, 4 Mike Allardice, 3 Jason Marshall, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Brendon Edmonds.
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Adrian Barone, 18 Tom Parsons, 19 Tony Lamborn, 20 Ellery Wilson, 21 Jason Shoemark, 22 Matt Berquist.

Date: Sunday, August 17
Kick-off: 14:35 local (03:35 BST, 02:35 GMT)
Venue: Lansdowne Park, Blenheim
Referee: Glen Jackson