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Mid Canterbury v Poverty Bay clash shaping up to be a make-or-break game


Poverty Bay have their work cut out for them against Mid Canterbury in what is shaping up to be a make-or-break game for their playoff dreams.

The team will be hoping to ride the momentum of their strong bounce-back performance last weekend against King Country, into this weekend.

Both sides come into the game with 16 competition points and a 3-2 record with four bonus points.

Civil Project Solutions Poverty Bay co-coach Miah Nikora said this game is vital for both teams' hopes of staying in touch with finals football, with only three regular-season games remaining.

The team, who are still in search of their first away win of the year, have identified that they will need to travel better if they want to put in a strong performance.

Nikora said they had already identified some small changes that will make their approach “more clinical” on game day.

After watching the tape of Mid Canterbury, he expects to come up against “a big side with a lot of dangerous players”.

The team will have to match their physicality up front if they want to be successful against their opponents strong forward pack.

With key players who have established themselves as quiet workhorses in the team, like flanker Stefan Destounis out with injury, the team will be looking for someone else to step up in his absence.

“He's certainly a loss, but we're happy with the depth we've got and those guys who step up will relish the opportunity,” Nikora said.

Poverty Bay also has questions around the availability of Andrew Tauatevalu and Te Peehi Fairle, with a decision yet to be made if they will play this weekend.

Nikora said the string of injuries is par for the course at this time of the season and every team will be struggling with player unavailability.

With the team having to delve into its player reserves in recent weeks, it will be another good test of how the locals-only approach the union has taken affects their depth in players.

With all the players in the team having played Poverty Bay club rugby, the team has a comradery that rivals even the most faithful of teams.

With Saturday's weather forecast to be overcast in Ashburton, Poverty Bay will be keen to use their threats on the edges to create chances again this weekend.

The game plan of working the ball through the forwards to draw in the defence and give their backs the space to create opportunities has been fruitful for the team this season. And as the saying goes, ‘if it ain't broken, don't fix it'.

Poverty Bay: Toru Noanoa 1, Shayde Skudder 2, James Higgins 3, Fletcher Scammell 4, Dan Law 5, Keanu Taumata 6, Quade Tapsell 7, Tamanui Hill 8, Mario Counsell 9, Kelvin Smith (c) 10, Tione Hubbard 11, Jacob Leaf 12, Penikolo Latu 13, Aaon McLelland 14, Paoraian Manuel-Harman 15, Tulsa Kaui 16, Jarryd Broughton 16, Sam McDell 18, George Whakatope 19, Jake Holmes 20, Ethine Reeves 21, Taine Aupouri 22.

Mid Canterbury: Adam Williamson 1, Callum Burrell 2, Carisbrook Toomalatai 3, Tepasu Thomas 4, JJ Manning 5, Manasa Bari 6, Michael Hennings 7, Seta Koroitamana 8, Liam McCormack 9, Tom Reekie 10, Paovale Fofai 11, Nick Foxley 12, Isireli Masiwini 13, Raitube Vasurakuta 14, Nathan McCloy 15, Joel Leo 16, Osea Baisagale 17, Lote Nasiga 18, Sherperd Mhembere 19, Harvey Blyth 20, George Williams 21, Ashton McArthur 22.

On the ball: Poverty Bay lock Dan Law looks to make a linebreak through a shrinking gap in the King Country defence, with locking partner Fletcher Scammell in support, during last weekend’s 50-26 home win. Picture by Paul Rickard