Tasman may have been robbed of four All Blacks, but that hasn’t stopped them from naming an experienced side laden with Super Rugby talent for their top-of-the-table Mitre 10 Cup clash with Waikato on Saturday.

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Tasman are one of two undefeated teams in the Premiership, having comfortably accounted for Championship sides Counties Manukau and Northland in the opening two rounds of the competition. Waikato, their closest rivals on the ladder, have also scored two big wins against Wellington and North Harbour.

Outside backs Will Jordan and Sevu Reece as well as flanker Shannon Frizell and prop Tyrel Lomax were all called into the All Blacks camp in Whakatane earlier this week and were ineligible to play in this weekend’s round of matches. They’ve been replaced in the starting lineup by Mark Telea, Alex Nankivell, Sione Havili and Isaac Salmon – men who have all had experience with Super Rugby teams.

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Captain David Havili, who returned to action last weekend having sat out the better part of two months with a fractured thumb, will shift from the midfield to fullback to take Jordan’s place. The returning Nankivell slots in at second five.

Telea, also back from injury, takes Reece’s spot on the wing while the rest of the backline remains unchanged from last Friday’s win 54-21 victory over Northland.

In the forwards, Crusader Havili takes over from Frizell, effectively allowing the Mako to operate with dual opensides. Havili will accompany Hugh Renton and Jacob Norris in the loose forwards.

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39-year-old Alex Ainley shifts from the bench to the second row and Salmon comes in at tighthead prop in the only other changes to the team.

Saturday’s match, played in front of a Tasman home crowd for the first time this season due to COVID related restrictions, kicks off at 2:00pm NZT.

Tasman: David Havili (c), Mark Telea, Fetuli Paea, Alex Nankivell, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Mitch Hunt, Dwayne Polataivao, Hugh Renton, Sione Havili, Jacob Norris, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Alex Ainley, Isaac Salmon, Andrew Makalio, Isi Tu’ungafasi. Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Ryan Coxon, Samuel Matenga, Mahonri Ngakuru, Braden Stewart, Louie Chapman, Tim O’Malley, Tima Fainga’anuku.

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