Should Northland find their true flow and cohesion, there's no reason why they can't beat Ranfurly Shield holders Taranaki to register their first win in the Mitre 10 Cup competition in Whangārei tomorrow.

After coming perilously close against North Harbour in the first round, the Taniwha showed a tonne of grit and determination against Auckland last weekend before running out of steam in the second half.

The Taniwha take on Taranaki in round three tomorrow at Okara Park before playing Otago in Dunedin on Friday.

It's been a tough start to the season for Northland. Tomorrow's game will be the third in a row to start the season against a team from the Premiership, while the game against Otago will be the Taniwha's first against another team from the Championship division.


Although last weekend's result made for a horribly painful evening for the Okara Park faithful, they are likely to come out in numbers to see their team put their season back on track.

To be fair, the Taniwha played and lost to two premiership teams that are playing in a higher competition while Taranaki is also in the upper grade.

However, Taranaki lost to Bay of Plenty in the first round and may be vulnerable playing away this Sunday and playing without their inspirational skipper Angus Ta'avao who has joined the All Blacks as an injury cover for the injured Joe Moody.

Northland fans will want to see their team pull off those sweeping moves from the likes of Rene Ranger and Jack Debreczeni where they pass and run into space.

They will also enjoy watching Northland forwards led by workaholic Josh Goodhue and the abrasive Tom Robinson run harder, bash over the gainline and clean out better.

No doubt head coach Derren Witcombe will have spent this week looking at what went wrong in the first two rounds rather than what went right.

He has made positional changes for tomorrow's match, with Ranger and Tamati Tua swapping positions in the backline.

Ranger will play as outside centre and Tua on the wing while Blake Hohaia, who scored a try against Auckland, will retain the No 12 jersey.

Veteran Matt Moulds is out of the match-day 23, replaced by Jordan Olsen in the front row while Robinson has been moved from lock to the blindside flank.

Kara Pryor has also been left out of the squad with Kane Jacobson chosen to play No 7.

Murray Douglas switches from blindside to pair Goodhue at lock.

The halves pair of Debreczeni and Sam Nock have been retained and their replacements will be Myles Thoroughgood and the impressive Jono Kitto respectively.

By tweaking men around in the forwards, Witcombe is no doubt looking from his breakdown operators all the zing and menace to not only make the maximum impact but to also last 80 minutes of high tempo rugby.

But if they run hard and wilt as they did against Auckland, what follows could be something to forget.

The twin locks of Goodhue and Douglas have a good blend of nasty, skills, courage, power and athletic ability to slug it out against the best at this level and beyond.

They must defend with structure and passion, offload superbly at times, run neat lines, kick well and slow Taranaki's possession at the breakdown.

Northland team to play Taranaki at Okara Park, 4.35pm on Sunday:
1). Ross Wright
2). Jordan Olsen
3). Ropate Rinakama
4). Josh Goodhue
5). Murray Douglas
6). Tom Robinson
7). Kane Jacobson
8). Matt Matich
9). Sam Nock
10). Jack Debreczeni
11). Tamati Tua
12). Blake Hohaia
13). Rene Ranger
14). Jordan Hyland
15). Matty Wright

16). Campbell Matthews
17). Isileli Tu'ungafasi
18). Jack Straker
19). Temo Mayavananua
20). Sam MacNamara
21). Jono Kitto
22). Myles Thoroughgood
23). Scott Gregory