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GAME PREVIEW - Final 4 v Saints

It's the game that will get the 2019 Sal's NBL Final 4 off to a cracking start. Last year's two Grand Finalists meet and as we all know, out on the court, there is no love lost between the Saints and Sharks. This season, so far, has belonged to the Saints, and in their two meetings with the Sharks the result were lopsided, however finals are a whole new ball-game and this clash promises to be a ripper. Here's what you need to know.


3:10pm tip-off Saturday July 20 at Horncastle Arena, Christchurch.


Live on SKY Sports 4 and Prime Television from 3pm


The opening Semi Final of the 2019 Sal’s NBL features regular season leaders the Cigna Wellington Saints up against the 2018 Sal’s NBL champions, the SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks. While a place at the Final 4 was a lock from the midway point for the Saints, the same can’t be said about Sharks as an unsettled line-up and a string of losses saw the Southerners drop to fifth on the ladder at one stage, however the Sharks steadied at the right time and come in with some recent form that will please Coach Judd Flavell. In their two clashes this season the Saints prevailed quite comfortably and come into the Final 4 with real confidence that they have both the required depth and an array of differing match-ups they can throw at the Sharks. In particular the inclusion of Tom Abercrombie late in the season has added a whole other dimension to the Saints, who’s rotation now easily runs eight-deep. Abercrombie has arguably been Wellington’s best player in recent weeks and is more than capable of playing a larger role if the situation calls for it. Excitingly for Saints fans it has recently been the team’s defensive efforts that haven’t gone unnoticed and right now they look the best two-way team in the league. The Sharks will be hopeful that the recent form of both Todd Blanchfield and Jarrad Weeks continues as the Australian pair are lethal when they get going, especially from range, but whether that’s enough to take down the juggernaut that is the Saints remains the great unknown. A couple of key things to look for include the solid connection between Rob Loe and Nick Kay, who’s high-low prowess is the best in the league when going unchecked and will require some special defence from Alex Pledger if it is to be limited. The other is the enormous grunt that Tom Vodanovich, Hyrum Harris and Dom Kelman-Poto bring to the table – if the three versatile Sharks get their hands on the ball they will prove a difficult match-up for the Saints. While the rampaging Saints will understandably start as very warm favourites, never underestimate the heart of the reigning champions.


Starting 5

55. Shea Ili

7. Reuben Te Rangi

11. Jordan Ngatai

4. Nick Kay

14. Rob Loe


10. Tom Abercrombie

3. Sunday Dech

15. Leon Henry

13. Anzac Rissetto

9. Theo Johnson

21. James Cawthorn

Coach: Paul Henare

Assistant Coach: Troy McLean

Assistant Coach: Aaron Young

Manager: Phil Hartley

Physio: Jamie Beleski

Assistant Manager: Kaia Henare

General Manager: Jordan Mills

From the Coach - Paul Henare

To be the Champs you have to beat the Champs and that is our task on Saturday. The Sharks have been playing some great ball of late so we know we are in for a hell of a fight. Their size and presence on the board will test us but it’s a challenge we are all up for. Our journey this year has been one of playing our unique brand and playing for on another. We have achieved that and now we get to enjoy the reward of playing finals basketball. There is nothing better in sport


Starting 5

97. Jarrad Weeks

24. Todd Blanchfield

22. Hyrum Harris

15. Tom Vodanovich

35. Alex Pledger


11. Dom Kelman-Poto

14. Tai Wynyard

4. Roberto Nelson

25. Andrew Wheeler

45. Tinashe Matambanadzo

2. Tom Cowie

31. Jordan Murphy

34. Connor Coll

Coach: Judd Flavell

Assistant Coach: Leyton Haddleton

Team Manager: Troy Paulin

Physio: Hayden Sproat

Chaplain: Shane Auld

Trainer: Tyson Huia

From the Coach - Judd Flavell

This is why we play - to give ourselves a shot at it this weekend. It’s going to be a fun one and we are fizzing at the prospect. The great thing for the league is that there are four good sides doing battle this weekend. Saints have set the standard all year. In a competitive league, to go undefeated is an incredible effort. They are such a good all round side who make you pay for any lapse. For us, it’s going to be won on the defensive end. Saints have scored 120 on us twice this season but I like what we’ve been able to bring on defence over the last few weeks especially. Our guys are always going to get theirs offensively, so if we can get Wellington off their game and stick to ours for 40 minutes, we’ll be in it at the end. Then we can worry about Sunday.

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