By PETER JESSUP
The two Auckland teams in this weekend's Bartercard Cup playoffs travel south confident in the knowledge that they have beaten their opponents home and away this season.
Both the Glenora Bears, who meet Wainuiomata in the knockout final today, and the Eastern Tornadoes, who go to Canterbury, have fully fit, first-choice selections.
The Bears have police trainee Gavin Bailey out of the Porirua college and will look to him to instigate much of their backline play.
The Tornadoes have David Fisiiahi, Fred Tupou and Mark Murray listed as starters after they were rested last week to allow niggling injuries time to heal.
Glenora coach Duane Mann has put himself into the second row for what he expects will be a fiery start in front of a big Wainui crowd.
"We're looking to get a good start. Having beaten them twice [30-18 away and 32-14 at home] does give us some confidence.
"Down there we didn't have a lot of opportunities but when he got them we took them and I think that knocked their confidence a bit. And at the rec [in Glen Eden] we got in their faces on defence and kept them going back on attack, then laid it on for our backs to take it in the last 10 minutes of each half."
Mann said Bailey would easily slot back in despite the pressure of finals.
The dangers would come from Manly try-out Billy Weepu at prop, Wainuiomata captain Heston Patea, who has moved from the backs to second row, and the returning Yogi Rogers, who Mann says is blessed with speed.
Patea returns after an ankle ligament tear that kept him out last weekend. He and Rogers offer experience in the big time as members of Wainuiomata's national club championship team of the early 1990s.
Both teams had to win their last four games to make it to the cup playoffs.
The Tornadoes-Bulls game promises to be fast and expansive. Both have a liking for throwing the ball wide early.
Their match-up in Christchurch in round-robin play ended in controversy, with the Bulls denied a late try when a touch judge ruled that a foot went out, thus preventing a chance to draw.
Tornadoes' manager Len Pene said just footing it with Eastern would lend some confidence, predicting that both sides would run quick play-the-balls but that in the end the bigger, mobile Tornadoes forwards would win it.
The Tornadoes have identified several stars of the future this season. The 19-year-old Fisiiahi twins, Paul and David, were both selected for the Tongan World Cup team in the centres, coach and former Kiwi James Leuluai's son Phillip was selected for Samoa at lock, and second rower Fred Tupou is on standby.
But Pene credits halfback Remus Gentles, the cup's top try-scorer with 25, for much of the team's success. Gentles has been around for ages, it seems, always mentioned in dispatches but never the professional attitude to take him further. Pene thinks that might have changed.
If the two Auckland sides win, there will be a double-header at Carlaw Park, tomorrow's winner playing minor premiers Otahuhu while tomorrow's loser meets the winner from today.
Wainuiomata: Yogi Rogers, Nio Luamanu, Michael Price, Delaney Edmonds, Danny Reuela, Steve Berryman, David Faiumu, Billy Weepu, Jason Bell, Chris Savali, Heston Patea (c), Mike Luke, Ian Drummond; interchange David Tuia, Leamy Tato, Ese Oti, Jacob Crown.
Glenora: Clinton Pouesi, Aniseto Iole, Boycie Nelson, Alan Li'o, Ricky Henry, Gavin Bailey, Steve Buckingham (c), Carl Findlay, Aaron Tucker, Greg Ashby, Craig Butt, Duane Mann, Jonathan Hughes; interchange James Nicholson, Natu Tigifagu, Ben Valeni, Wayne Bailey.
Canterbury: Lusi Sione, Gareth Cook, Gafa Tuiloma, Raymond Hubbard, Tangiia Tongia, Scott Nixon, Maurice Emslie (c), Kevin Te Hau, Shane Beyers, Craig Barrow, Robert Henare, Graeme Emslie, Shaun Norton; interchange Clayton Harris, Malala Pua'avase, Kayne Jager, Taylor Pelenise.
Eastern: Taki Pulini, Casion Doyle, Paul Fisiiahi, David Fisiiahi, Joe Flavell, Remus Gentles, Mark Murray, Brian Tuia, Jason Tatana, Andrew Fausa, Sinave Faitala (c), Fred Tupou, Phillip Leuleuai; interchange Joe Tau, Winston Sua, Poha Pulini, Terry Teo.
By PETER JESSUP