North Otago will take on South Canterbury in the Lochore Cup semi-final of the Heartland Championship in Timaru tomorrow.
The Old Golds secured the semi-final place after handing East Coast a 45-5 mauling in Oamaru last Saturday to finish in seventh place on the points table, while old enemy South Canterbury were downed 27-4 by fellow Hanan Shield rivals Mid Canterbury in their final round-robin fixture to place sixth.
North Otago’s campaign has been one of inconsistency with four wins and four losses.
Mike Mullins side were toppled 17-9 by Buller in Westport in round one and looked lethargic in the first half against Poverty Bay in week two before rallying to produce a defiant second half display to take a 43-34 win.
Rounds three and four saw narrow loses to Wanganui (20-15) and King Country (17-14) before scoring successive victories over Thames Valley (19-15) and South Canterbury (22-19) in a thrilling clash at Forsyth Barr.
The Old Gold’s penultimate round-robin encounter proved frustrating as Mid Canterbury took 28-7 victory in Ashburton.
South Canterbury’s season has also produced as many wins as losses but began strongly with three consecutive victorys over Wanganui (31-18), West Coast (49-15) and Wairarapa Bush (43-16).
The impressive form was short lived, however, as the green and blacks then fell in to a slump of form that saw there last victory come on September 20 against Poverty Bay (32-28).
South Canterbury are familiar to the occasion having played in the Lochore Cup final for the last three seasons, losing to Poverty Bay and Buller in 2011 and 2012 before gaining revenge over Buller in the same fixture last year to take the cup to Timaru
South Canterbury will be without Maili I’ongi after the pacey winger sustained a hamstring injury while outside back Tenari Saumani is a doubt due to an ankle complaint.
Coach Chester Scott said he expects a tough test against the Old Golds but insisted his side is well prepared.
“Preperations have gone as well as they possibly could,” he said.
“It’s tough for every Heartland team at the stage of the season with injuries building up.
“We’re expecting a tough game against North Otago, they’re aggressive at the breakdown and have some dangerous backs.”
The North Otago faithful will hope South Canterbury’s questionable form will continue and that the narrow head-to-head victory in September will offer a psychological edge.
Tomorrow’s match will kick off at 2.30pm at the Alpine Energy Stadium in Timaru while King Country take on Wanganui in the opposite semi-final.
In the Meads Cup semi-finals Buller will lock horns with Horowhenua Kapiti and Poverty Bay will play Mid Canterbury.
Ralph Darling, Kilioni Taufa, Rob Mafileo, Sale Pi’i, Jared Whitburn, Josh Clark,
Manulua Taiti, Samisoni Tongotongo, Robbie Smith, Ben Palmer, Matthew Vocea,
Ekeroma Sauileoge, Tenina Sauileoge, Lemi Masoe, Simeli Koniferedi, Hayden Tisdall,
Palenapa Mafi, Uilisoni Tahutia, Matt Duff, Cameron Keenan, Stephen Fenemor, Joe Marston.
By JAMES FORD
PHOTO: BRAYDEN LINDSAY – North Otago beat South Canterbury 22-19 at Forsyth Barr stadium last month. Pictured is Ekeroma Sauileoge making a tackle.