Southland face their toughest Ranfury Shield defence, since they won the trophy from Canterbury in 2009, when they play Auckland in Invercargill on Thursday night. The Stags have not beaten Auckland since 1971 and have lost 41 of 50 matches against them. This will be a top of the table clash and Auckland, second place in the current ITM Cup standings, travel to play first placed Southland.
Auckland have decided to introduce All Blacks John Afoa at loosehead prop and Benson Stanley at centre into the side, further changes include Tom McCartney in at hooker, Andrew van der Heijden in the second row, Onosa’i Auva’a at openside and Chay Raui on the wing.
Southland: Glen Horton, Mark Wells, Tony Koonwaiyou, Matt Saunders, James Paterson, Robbie Robinson, Scott Cowan, Kane Thompson, Tim Boys, John Hardie, Joe Tuineau, Josh Bekhuis, Chris King, Jason Rutledge, Jamie Mackintosh
Auckland: Brent Ward, Dave Thomas, Benson Stanley, Jamie Helleur, Chay Raui, Matt Berquist, Toby Morland, Peter Saili, Daniel Braid, Onosa’i Auva’a, Andrew Van der Heijden, Kurtis Haiu, Charlie Faumuina, Tom McCartney, John Afoa