21 January 2010
Taranaki's premier tennis competition resumes this weekend after the Christmas break. Round Seven gets under way a week earlier than in previous seasons owing to an additional event Taranaki will be hosting this year- the Adidas Cup (a Central Regional Representative Tournament between Taranaki, Wanganui, Manawatu Wairarapa Bush) taking place next weekend.
Soffe Cup will also be hurt by the loss of a number of experienced personnel from each side to the Senior National Tennis Tournament coinciding this weekend in Hamilton.
Sanfords Manaia will play Stumble Inn Waiwaka at home in what shapes as an opportunity for the South Taranaki side to stake their case for a home semi-final. Waiwaka will conversely be desperate to register a win in their bid to reign in the leading pack. Waiwaka sit 15 points behind fourth-placed Oakura and therefore will need to begin their chase immediately with only four rounds remaining. Waiwaka's chances in this match will lie in the quality of their women's line-up of Krystal Oakes, Michelle Lace, Jaydn Bruce and Shuna Giles/ Michelle Wong.
Manaia, on the other hand thrive at the seemingly impenetrable bastion of Manaia Tennis Club. Whilst some pundits may allege they were fortunate to escape with a result against Waiwaka in the first round in New Plymouth, there is no fortuity involved in the proud record they have amassed at home over the past decade. Led by Michael Gates and the dominant brother-sister combination Cameron and Nicole Koch, Manaia will once more begin as compelling favourites to continue that record this weekend.
Hareb Deken Oakura will host Tariki Icon Sports Pukekura in a tie that may end considerably closer than the 14-2 drubbing Pukekura received the last time these two teams met. If Mike Fleming plays for Pukekura, he will face one of his toughest challenges against Oakura No. 1 Graham Mitchell. Mitchell along with Miaana Walden have been in fine form for Oakura this season, and will be relied upon to continue that winning vein this weekend. The No.1 ladies match saw Linda Reid overcome Sue Oldfield in a tight three-set encounter in the previous meeting. Another classic is predicted between these two should they meet again. Other matches of note will see Pukekura teenager Callum Old play John Hardie Boys or Josh Walden, while Becky Bruckner may meet Jeanette Harding or Tania Fleming.
It will be imperative that Oakura attempt to maximise their return from this match, as it shapes as their final home match of the preliminary rounds.