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New Zealand Rugby: North v South Island Preview

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Darry Worthington previews the 2020 North versus South Island clash that will pit New Zealand’s star against one another on Saturday the 5th of September.

Image copyright – Steve Haag Sports

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone
It’s been eight years since the last North versus South Island clash and this one probably holds a bit more water than the last fixture with quality southern hemisphere rugby at a premium this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Zealand’s best and brightest are set to square off this Saturday in an age-old rivalry that was once the highlight of New Zealand’s domestic scene. 

Which island will come out on top in Saturday’s inter-island derby? We’ll try and figure that out, below.

North v South Island
Saturday 5 September
Sky Stadium (Westpac) 

As noted in the introduction, the north versus south island clash used to be one of the most eye-catching fixtures on the New Zealand rugby calendar.

The inaugural match was played way back in 1897 with the game becoming an annual fixture from 1902 up until rugby turned professional in 1996. While there were breaks – mainly occurring during the two World Wars – the tournament was the pinnacle fixture on the New Zealand rugby calendar.

The last edition of the tournament was played back in 2012 with a reboot occurring in aid of the Otago Rugby Union who had run into financial trouble. 

Selection criteria for this year’s edition of the match was based on where players played their first domestic senior rugby game this includes Heartland Championship outings or Mitre 10 Cup fixtures. As such, there are some weird looking match-ups with Jordie Barrett and Beauden set to be on opposite sides despite growing up in the same town.

To Win (80 Mins)
North Island 13/20
Draw 22/1
South Island 5/4

North Island (-3.5) 
South Island (+3.5)

*Please note that these are forecast handicaps. 


North Island

Asafo Aumua (Wellington), Ash Dixon (Hawke’s Bay) and Kurt Eklund (Auckland).

Props: Alex Fidow (Wellington), Ayden Johnstone (Waikato), Angus Ta’avao (Auckland), Karl Tu’inukuafe (North Harbour) and Ofa Tuungafasi (Auckland).
Locks: Scott Scrafton (Auckland), Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland and captain) and Tupou Vaa’i (Taranaki).
Loose forwards: Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki), Akira Ioane (Auckland), Dalton Papalii (Auckland), Ardie Savea (Wellington) and Hoskins Sotutu (Auckland).
Halfbacks: TJ Perenara (Wellington), Aaron Smith (Manawatu) and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Taranaki).
First five-eighths: Beauden Barrett (Taranaki).
Midfielders: Rieko Ioane (Auckland), Anton Lienert-Brown (Waikato) and Peter Umaga-Jensen (Wellington).
Outside backs: Caleb Clarke (Auckland), Mitchell Hunt (Auckland), Damian McKenzie (Waikato), Sevu Reece (Waikato) and Mark Telea (North Harbour).
Potential Starting XV
1. Ofa Tuungafasi
2. Asafo Aumua
3. Angus Ta’avoa
4. Scott Scrafton
5. Patrick Tuiplulotu (Capt)
6. Lachlan Boshier
7. Ardie Savea 
8. Hoskins Sotutu
9. Aaron Smith
10. Beauden Barrett
11.Caleb Clarke
12. Anton Leinert-Brown
13. Rieko Ioane
14. Sevu Reece
15. Damien McKenzie

Jockeys Ride HorsesSouth Island

Liam Coltman (Otago), Andrew Makalio (Tasman) and Codie Taylor (Canterbury).
Props: George Bower (Otago), Alex Hodgman (Canterbury), Nepo Laulala (Canterbury), Tyrel Lomax (Tasman) and Joe Moody (Canterbury).
Locks: Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury), Manaaki Selby-Rickit (Southland) and Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury and captain).
Loose forwards: Tom Christie (Canterbury), Shannon Frizell (Tasman), Dillon Hunt (Otago), Reed Prinsep (Canterbury) and Tom Sanders (Canterbury).

Halfbacks: Finlay Christie (Tasman), Mitchell Drummond (Canterbury) and Brad Weber (Otago).
First five-eighths: Josh Ioane (Otago) and Richie Mo’unga (Canterbury).
Midfielders: Braydon Ennor (Canterbury), Leicester Faingaanuku (Tasman), Jack Goodhue (Canterbury) and Sio Tomkinson (Otago)
Outside backs: Jordie Barrett (Canterbury), George Bridge (Canterbury) and Will Jordan (Tasman).

Potential Starting XV
1. Joe Moody
2. Codie Taylor
3. Tyrell Lomax
4. Sam Whitelock (Capt)
5. Mitchell Dunshea

6. Dillon Hunt
7. Tom Christie
8. Reed Prinsep
9. Brad Weber
10. Richie Mo’unga
11. Will Jordan
12. Jack Goodhue
13. Braydon Ennor
14. George Bridge 
15. Jordie Barrett

To Win (80 Minutes)
North Island

South Island

North Island
South Island

North Island
The North Island look a rather strong squad especially in the forward pack with All Blacks Ardie Savea, Ofa Tuungafasi, Angus Ta’avoa and Patrick Tuiplulotu, Lachlan Boshier set to pack down alongside promising youngsters Asafo Aumua and Hoskins Sotutu.

They also have a class backline that contains the likes of Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Aaron Smith, Sevu Reece and Damien McKenzie. Not only do they possess a strong starting XV but they will also have a deep bench that could feature TJ Perrenarra, Akira Ioane and Peter Umaga-Jensen. 

With John Plumtree as one of the North coaches, you just know that there forward pack will produce the goods at the set-piece. 

South Island
The South Island have an interesting blend of grizzly forwards and talented young backs. Upfront, the likes of Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Sam Whitelock will look to put pressure on a solid looking North pack, while upstart loosies Dillon Hunt and tom Christie may be the ones tasked with keeping Ardie Savea quiet.

While the North backline is packed with seasoned All Blacks, the SOuth have the exciting young contingent with Braydon Ennor and George Bridge set to form the midfield combination. They’ll probably flanked by Jordie Barrett and George Bridge while the prolific Will Jordan may get a run on the wing.

I have a sneaky suspicion that Shannon Frazell may come on in the second half as an impact sub and a way to counteract a mean-looking North loose trio, while Finlay Christie, who has been in terrific form during Super Rugby Aotearoa may come on to put some pressure on around the fringe.

Historical Stats
The North versus South derby has been played 80 times with the North winning 50 and the South winning 28, and there have been two draws.

The 2012 encounter was one by the South 32-24.

Verdict: North (-3.5) *forecast handicap
I feel the North’s pack will be too good for the South and allow their All Black-laiden backline to produce the goods. My money is on the North clearing a rather low handicap. I also expect this one to be packed with points. 

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