New coach Tom Donnelly has opted for an experienced side to travel to Auckland to face a side laden with All Blacks and Super Rugby stars. While Donnelly doesn’t quite have the same resources at his disposal, the Otago side still packs plenty of firepower.
Up front, Liam Coltman will be flanked by experienced returnee Josh Hohneck as well as Josh Aiona, who’s now in his fifth season with the Razorbacks.
Josh Hill will combine with 2018 NZ Under 20 representative Will Tucker in the second row.
Otago’s loose forward trio boasts ample experience in the form of Slade McDowall and Dylan Nel as well as new recruit Charles Elton. Elton recently featured for North Otago in their Ranfurly Shield challenge against Canterbury and was a regular selection in their side in last year’s Heartland Championship.
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It’s in the backs where Otago could cause some damage, however, with Ioane – who hails from Auckland – combining with fellow Highlander Kayne Hammington in the halves.
The midfield partnership of Aleki Morris-Lome and Josh Timu lacks some experience but the outside back trio of Jonah Nareki, Vilimoni Koroi and captain Michael Collins is up there with the best in the country.
Highlanders talisman Nasi Manu will debut for Otago off the bench, having played all his provincial representative rugby for Canterbury. Manu was co-captain of the Highlanders when they won the 2015 Super Rugby title and has returned to New Zealand following a stint in Italy. Manu’s presence off the bench should lift the young Otago side late in the match.
Reserve halfback James Arscott is an exceptionally promising 20-year-old who likely would have featured for the NZ team this season had their campaign not been derailed due to COVID-19.
Otago’s match with Auckland kicks off at 4:15 pm NZT on Saturday afternoon.
Otago: Michael Collins (c), Vilimoni Koroi, Josh Timu, Aleki Morris-Lome, Jonah Nareki, Josh Ioane, Kayne Hammington, Dylan Nel, Slade McDowall, Charles Elton, Will Tucker, Josh Hill, Josh Hohneck, Liam Coltman, Josh Aoina. Reserves: Ricky Jackson, George Bower, Hisa Sasagi, Jack Regan, Nasi Manu, James Arscott, Patelesio Tomkinson, Freedom Vaha’akolo.
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