Tuesday June 26 2012 03:51 p.m.
Tomorrow's representative rugby clash between the Marlborough Red Devils and North Canterbury at Lansdowne Park in Blenheim is a valuable part of the buildup towards the Seddon Shield defences in August for the home team and an opportunity for several fringe players to cement their places.
In that category are Awatere prop Kurt Lindsay. He starts at loosehead prop in place of Tim Perry, the latter in the substitution mix. That selection is no reflection of Perry's club form but more because he's a strong candidate to make the Tasman Makos and those players won't be available for the Seddon Shield campaign.
Renwick's Dale Russ is another to force his way into the starting XV with strong club form and Waitohi's New Zealand sevens star Bryce Heem makes his Marlborough debut.
Among the reserves is Waitohi and 2011 Makos loose forward Vernon Fredericks, making a comeback after missing the season so far due to a serious shoulder injury. His Waitohi clubmate and lock Daniel Karena is another returning from injury and selector-coaches Steve Crockett and Peter Jones have picked three halfbacks, in-form Harlequins man Daniel MacDonald getting the starting role ahead of Waitohi's James Giles and Central's Willie Alaiasa. Moutere utility back Chris Murphy comes into the reserves.
From the team that lost narrowly 28-33 to Nelson Bays earlier this month, first-five Tom Halse has left the province and fullback George Millar is unavailable. Harlequins mid-fielder Mike Schmidt-Lealava'a is injured and Central No8 Kaleni Taetuli has missed the cut.
Apart from personal and provincial pride being on the line, the Conway Shield is at stake, currently held by Marlborough. Traditionally an annual clash, the match wasn't scheduled last year and in 2010 it was cancelled due to heavy snow in North Canterbury.
Marlborough won the last battle between the two sides 33-27 at Kaikoura in 2009, and if today's rain doesn't affect the playing surface too much, expect this Marlborough team to unleash a few tricks if the forwards give them the opportunity.
The match is also a final opportunity for Marlborough players to impress the Tasman Makos selectors before they name their A and B teams on Monday.
North Canterbury coach Shane Fletcher named his starting XV yesterday but could not confirm his bench due to injuries and unavailabilities. North Canterbury have played once this year, losing 19-20 to Mid-Canterbury. Fletcher said the team is in a rebuilding phase having lost 16 of last year's squad.
Kickoff tomorrow at Lansdowne Park No1 is 2.35pm with Marlborough's Dave Woodhouse the referee.
Marlborough Red Devils: Rawiri Tamati, Jake Cresswell, Bryce Heem, Onolevu Temo, Kieran Hickman, Daniel Hawkins, Daniel MacDonald, Dale Russ, Joe Stewart, Stu Dalzell, Stu Campbell, Dan Crockett, Fetu Ieremia, Gareth Archer, Kurt Lindsay.
Subs from: James Hounslow, Tim Perry, Brian Utumapu, James Pigou, Nathan Oakley, Vernon Fredericks, Daniel Karena, Willie Alaiasa, James Giles, Chris Murphy
North Canterbury: Grant Broderson, Ethan Hobbs, Matt Keane, Matt Newton, Scott Beattie, Diahmuid McMahon, Tevita Vea, Logan Telfer, Ryan Nesbitt, Willie Kerr, Will Thompson, Josh Maynard, Ben Frame, Cale Dobby, Hamish Black.
Subs: Mark Frampton, Kit Taylor. The rest to be confirmed.