Preview: Waikato v Tasman

Date published: August 13 2015

Last year's defeated finalists Tasman will kick off their ITM Cup campaign against Waikato in Hamilton on Friday, looking to go one better this season.

Two debutants will fill the vacant wing positions with Trael Joass and Monty Ioane both named in the Makos' starting line-up for the game at Waikato Stadium.

Wing has been the topic of much pre-season speculation in the absence of last year's two first choice selections James Lowe and Bryce Heem. A recent shoulder operation means that Lowe will miss the entire national provincial programme while Heem has headed back to his northern roots in Auckland. Lowe scored nine tries last year to set a new season try-scoring record for the province.

Instead, two rookies now get the chance to stake a claim for regular first team selection against a Waikato backline studded with game-breaking potential.

Although primarily a midfielder, Joass earns his selection on the back of an outstanding club season in which his powerful running was a key factor in Wanderers claiming both the Tasman Trophy and Nelson Bays premier championship titles.

It's been a heady rise for the 22-year-old, particularly as he'll be up against former New Zealand U20s and New Zealand sevens representative Joe Webber.

"It's pretty much last year's team," head coach Kieran Keane told Tasman's website. "We've basically shown faith in what they have done in the past. It's not a form team, because some of these boys have not shown any form.

"[Selecting] the outside backs has been a bit of a difficult task. We've gone with what we feel are the best men for this game."

But he said it was comforting to have lock Alex Ainley back on the track following some lingering injury concerns.

"It's great to have the warhorse back. He's carrying a niggle but we think it's prudent to start with a combination that we know works well together, in Joe [Wheeler] and Alex. Plus we have Marco Kotze and Jeff Lepa on the bench," he added.

Meanwhile for Waikato, four players in the starting XV will make their debuts with another three potential debutants named on the bench.

Front-rowers Atu Moli and Michael Mayhew, loose forward Murray Iti and full-back Shaun Stevenson are the uncapped players in the run on side. Prop Tau Koloamatangi, lock/loose forward James Tucker and fly-half Bryn Gatland are the new faces on the bench.

"Making your debut for any team is a special moment. The players will remember this game for a long time and as a team we are determined to make it memorable," head coach Sean Botherway told Waikato's website.

"Tasman are a step up in class and will present a tough challenge, but we have prepared well and must front mentally and physically."

The teams:

Waikato: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Declan O'Donnell, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Jordan Payne, 11 Joe Webber, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Josh Tyrell, 7 Murray Iti, 6 Whetu Douglas, 5 Jacob Skeen, 4 David Morgan, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Michael Mayhew, 1 Atu Moli.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Lone Uhila, 18 Tau Koloamatangi, 19 James Tucker, 20 Zane Kapeli, 21 Harrison Levien, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Johnathan Malo.

Tasman: 15 Robbie Malneek, 14 Trael Joass, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 David Havili, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Bill Guyton, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Shane Christie, 6 Pete Samu, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Tim Perry.

Replacements: 16 Jesse MacDonald, 17 Siua Halanukonuka, 18 Jake Stafford-Wood, 19 Marco Kotze, 20 Jeff Lepa, 21 Jimmy Cowan, 22 Trent Renata, 23 Alex Nankivell.

Date: Friday, August 14
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 18:05 local (06:05 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant