Northland , stunned by the early departure of Norm Berryman in advance of Friday's Ranfurly Shield clash against Canterbury, have called up ex-Waikato player Brad Miller to their squad of 22.
Berryman's final home match against Counties -Manukau was celebrated in fine style last Friday, the side scoring six tries and moving back into play-off contention. The Shield challenge was therefore to be Berryman's final appearance for his home province, appropriate given his successful connection with the Canterbury Crusaders Super 12 franchise over the past three years.
The Northland team manager confirmed this morning that Berryman had not appeared for training on Monday evening and that he had been under considerable pressure from French club Castres to join them earlier than had been anticipated. He also added that Berryman had been a fine, loyal servant to Northland over the years.
Whether Miller, younger brother of Waikato full back Todd, comes straight into the side or not remains to be seen.It seems more likely that flying Fijian winger Fero Lasagavibau will get a start.He has been unable to secure an automatic starting place this season but when he came on as a second half substitute against Counties showed his electrifying pace.Justin Collins' try came about as a result of Fero's break from his own 22, which also showed his strength as would-be tacklers struggled to get to grips with him.
The match against Canterbury will be Northland's second opportunity this season to have a crack at the Shield.Their first, against previous holders Waikato in Hamilton , saw them dismissed with disdainful ease and they will be hoping for better things on Friday.A win would also give them a very good chance of making the NPC First Division play offs for the first time .