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Super Rugby Aupiki teams named for semifinals

By Kim Ekin
Tafito Lafaele with ball in hand for the Blues. Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images

Super Rugby Aupiki’s regular season has concluded with the Chiefs Manawa claiming three wins from three to top the season table. All three other sides managed just one win and two losses, Matatu landed in second place while the Blues and hurricanes Poua claimed third and fourth respectively as a result of their points differential.

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The playoffs begin on Sunday with both semifinal matches hosted at North Harbour Stadium.

Hurricanes Poua

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The Hurricanes Poua have their work cut out for them as they face the title favourites in the Chiefs Manawa. Coach Victoria Grant has decided to shake things up in the backline for the knockout stages by shifting powerhouse Black Ferns winger Ayesha Leti-I’iga into the midfield, pushing Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali to first-five, with Carys Dallinger looking to provide impact off the bench.

“We are looking forward to the challenge. We’ve been building nicely over the past 3 games and have improved significantly, especially in set piece with 100% in our lineouts and scrums last week.  We are focused on putting together a solid 80min performance this week,” said Grant.

Manawat?’s Rachael Rakatau will once again captain the side from lock, alongside Joanah Ngan-Woo.

Hurricanes Poua to take on Chiefs Manawa:

1. Krystal Murray  2. Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate  3. Cilia-Marie Po’e-Tofaeono  4. Joanah Ngan-Woo  5. Rachael Rakatau ©  6. Layla Sae  7. Rhiarna Ferris  8. Kaipo Olsen-Baker  9. Milly Mackey 10. Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali  11. Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly  12. Shakira Baker  13. Ayesha Leti-I’iga  14. Bernadette Robertson  15. Isabella Waterman

Reserves:

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16. Sosoli Talawadua  17. Baye Jacob  18. Cristo Tofa  19. Maddie Feaunati  20. Aroha Savage  21. Kahlia Awa * 22. Carys Dallinger  23. Crystal Mayes

Chiefs Manawa

Finishing first in the standings to the tune of a mighty 149 points scored over their three outings to date, the Manawa will be confident heading into their matchup with the Hurricanes Poua.

Head coach Crystal Kaua is eager to keep her side’s unbeaten record alive and claim back-to-back titles in the competition and has named an unchanged 23 from last week’s clash with Matatu, banking on the chemistry she saw in the 46-38 win.

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“The team is connected, and you’ve seen that over the past three weeks when things get hard, there’s a real belief within the group that we will find a way,” Kaua said.

Although the results look favourable, Kaua wasn’t shying away from the challenges her team have faced and those that are yet to come.

“We’ve lost ten Black Ferns XV’s or sevens players since last year, what we have delivered to date is special, but these are the moments we train for. In finals footy, we want to see them put out an 80-minute performance, we haven’t done that yet.”

Chiefs Manawa side to take on Hurricanes Poua:

1. Kate Henwood  2. Luka Connor  3. Tanya Kalounivale  4. Kelsie Thwaites  5. Chelsea Bremner  6. Charmaine Smith  7. Tynealle Fitzgerald  8. Kennedy Simon (C)  9. Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu (VC)  10. Hazel Tubic  11. Georgia Daals  12. Azalleyah Maaka  13. Carla Hohepa  14. Mererangi Paul  15. Tenika Willison

Reserves:

16. Grace Houpapa-Barrett  17. Harono Te Iringa  18. Te Urupounamu McGarvey  19. Dhys Faleafaga  20. Victoria Makea  21. Violet Hapi-Wise  22. Abigail Roach  23. Apii Nicholls

Matatu

While the Chiefs Manawa dominated the opening rounds, Matatu gave the Waikato side their closest contest and will be hoping to topple the Blues as they did in round one in order to set up their rematch with the table toppers in the final.

Two notable moves in the Matatu side are Martha Mataele’s move to the left wing and Alana Bremner’s move to No 8.

“She’s an explosive athlete, powerful, and she adds some real robustness on the outside in both attack and defense,” head coach Blair Baxter said of Mataele.

As for the Black Fern Bremner, Baxter said “we’re expecting to see a different Lanz in that spot. She’s an athlete that has the ability to dive into her running game and showcase some of her superpowers.”

Matatu side to play the Blues:

1. Pip Love  2. Georgia Ponsonby  3. Amy Rule  4. Emma Dermody  5. Cindy Nelles  6. Lucy Jenkins  7. Kendra Reynolds  8. Alana Bremner  9. Di Hiini  10. Rosie Kelly  11. Martha Mataele  12. Grace Brooker  13. Amy du Plessis  14. Chay Robins-Reti  15. Renee Holmes

Reserves:

16. Nat Delamare  17. Ona Palu  18. Steph Te-Ohaere Fox  19. Sara Naiqama  20. Marcelle Parkes  21. Georgia Cormick  22. Cheyenne Cunningham  23. Charntay Poko

The Blues

The Auckland side comes into their semifinal contest with Matatu having claimed their first win if the season last weekend against the Poua.

The big news out of Blues camp is reigning World Rugby Player of the Year Ruahei Demant moves from her familiar first-five position into the midfield, occupying the No 12 jersey. The move makes way for veteran Krysten Cottrell to enter the staring side at No 10.

Demant was upbeat about the positional shift, saying “it’ll be great wearing the twelve jersey and running off Krysten. Whenever she’s come on in previous matches I’ve noticed a difference in our attack so I’m looking forward to starting out there with her.”

“There’s been a buzz around our training base at Eden Rugby Club over the last couple of days. We are walking towards this semi final and embracing the challenge ahead of us. We know Matat? will bring their best on Sunday and we’ll have to be at ours to match them.”

The Blues team to play Matatu:

1. Chryss Viliko 2. Grace Gago  3. Sophie Fisher  4. Eloise Blackwell  5. Maiakawanakaulani Roos  6. Charmaine McMenamin  7. Tafito Lafaele  8. Liana Mikaele-Tu’u  9. Melanie Puckett  10. Krysten Cottrell  11. Katelynn Vahaakolo  12. Ruahei Demant  13. Sylvia Brunt  14. Jaymie Kolose  15. Patricia Maliepo

Reserves:

16. Alakoka Po’oi  17. Toka Natua  18. Letelemalanuola Lavea  19. Maama Vaipulu  20. Shannon Leota  21. Ariana Bayler  22. Kiritapu Demant  23. Tara Turner

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