25 November 2009
Soffe Cup reaches its first round climax this weekend as each team battles it out for their own niche on the competition ladder.
Hareb Deken Oakura will play Central Finance Rotokare in a repeat of last year's final. Both sides will be keen to re-assert their considerable influence on this competition and will therefore be of crucial psychological importance going into the next round. The top men's match should feature Oakura's Graham Mitchell against either Blair or Kyle Crowley. Rotokare were hit hard in Soffe Cup's penultimate round by the loss of their key experienced men Greg Hareb, Mike Roberts and Chris Popata. It is unlikely any of these men will return till the next round. Josh Walden will be favoured to register a win against his opponent at No. 2 for Oakura. On the women's side, if Sue Oldfield returns this weekend she will play Rotokare captain Catherine Stevenson. Stevenson will be eager to lead her side well this weekend if they are to have a chance of deposing Oakura at home. Becky Bruckner may find herself up against Rebecca Atkins this Saturday at No. 3 and will be favoured in this clash.
Oakura will be hard pressed not to come away with victory on Saturday owing to Rotokare's shortfall of men at the present time; however Rotokare pushed Manaia all the way last week and will show its character again this weekend.
AWE Huatoki will be put to the test on Saturday- the verdict of which will tell us if they can be considered contenders or pretenders in this competition. As it is so often for New Plymouth clubs the real test manifests itself when faced with the arduous journey south to face Sanfords Manaia. A great match is expected from Manaia's Cameron Koch against Jonathan Ussher, where there will be a good battle for bragging rights between these two Taranaki reps. Huatoki will be stricken in its venture by the absence of their top lady Saori Han. Chris Wilson will play in the premier ladies match in place of Han, and will play either Nicole Koch or Ginny Death.
Amrit Rai will be welcomed back to the Huatoki fold after exam leave prevented his appearance in the past few rounds. He will likely meet Jason Mills or Jacob Gopperth and will provide a genuine test for either opponent. The No. 2 ladies match will be fought out between Alice Caskey and either Ginny Death or Sarah Kelly. Manaia will clearly look to their doubles and combines to assert themselves on this match where they have held the edge over most teams this summer. Huatoki will need to be prepared for a torrid day where every win will have to be thoroughly earned to pick up a result in this tie.
Tariki Icon Sports Pukekura and Stumble Inn Waiwaka will play at the Waiwaka courts on Saturday with valuable points needed from both teams to gather momentum for the next round. Pukekura's teenage-sensation Callum Old will step up to the No. 1 position as Michael Fleming is unavailable. He will face experienced campaigner Mike Lace- this clash will provide a great contrast in styles and will be a feature match between these two clubs. Dennis Reid will make his first appearance for Pukekura this Saturday and will play at No. 2 against Waiwaka's David Lace. Waiwaka will look to take charge with their strong women's line-up of Krystal Oakes, Michelle Lace, Jaydn Bruce, and Michelle Wong or Shuna Giles. Pukekura will rely on Linda Reid and Kirsten Adam to show the resilience typical of Pukekura sides in times gone past. Waiwaka will be preferred in the singles overall and therefore Pukekura will need to team up well in the doubles if they are to get anything from this tie.