Only one certainty will come from tonight's Taranaki/Manawatu Ranfurly Shield clash at Yarrow Stadium - Whanganui will be sandwiched between the winner and loser.

The Port Taranaki Bulls won the Ranfurly Shield in sensational fashion against Canterbury and will go out to "win it again" when they take on the Manawatu Turbos and funny enough, Whanganui will again be in the frame in New Plymouth.

Taranaki have named former Whanganui players Waisake Naholo and Stephen Perofeta in their starting line-up, while former Steelform Wanganui Heartland fullback Te Rangatira Waitokia is on the bench for Manawatu.

All three bring strong backgrounds to the paddock with Naholo an All Black winger, Perofeta's been a Blue, beaten the Lions and won the U20 World Cup this year. Waitokia is still trying to establish himself in the Turbos - not an easy task with Nehe Milner-Skudder having briefly been back in the squad. Waitokia, however, was the 2016 Heartland player of the year and is an exciting playmaker.


While the Port Taranaki Bulls are strong favourites to retain the shield they only took from Canterbury last weekend, coach Colin Cooper is not convinced it is a one-sided affair.

"The beauty of the Ranfurly Shield is it's open to anyone and you have to win it every time you play for it - everyone brings their A game," Cooper said.

"Just because we have it doesn't mean we own it, so we have to go and win it again."
Naholo, now free to play for his province, is the only change to the starting XV, with regular right wing Declan O'Donnell shifted to the bench.

"Waisake loves playing for Taranaki and is always asking the All Blacks coaches if he can be released to play," Cooper said. "It also allows Declan a bit of a rest as he's played a lot of minutes and had a heavy workload."

The teams:
TARANAKI - Mitchell Graham, Ricky Riccitelli, Angus Ta'avao (captain), Kane Thompson, Leon Power, Pita-Gus Sowakula, Lachlan Boshier, Toa Halafihi, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Stephen Perofeta, Manasa Mataele, Sean Wainui, Seta Tamanivalu, Waisake Naholo, Marty McKenzie.
Reserves - Donald Maka, Jared Proffit, Reuben O'Neill, Fin Hoeata/Brad Tucker, Adrian Wyrill, Kylem O'Donnell, Charlie Ngatai, Declan O'Donnell.

MANAWATU - Fraser Armstrong, Hunter Prescott, Michael Alaalatoa, Tom Parsons, Jackson Hemopo, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Antonio Kiri Kiri, Brice Henderson, Kayne Hammington, Otere Black, Ambrose Curtis, Ngani Laumape, Jason Emery, Newton Tudreu, Kurt Baker.
Reserves - Tim Cadwallader, Tuki Raimona, Sean Paranihi, Liam Hallam-Eames, Harrison Brewer, Jamie Booth, Jade Te Rure, Te Rangatira Waitokia.