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From the outside you would think belief has grown from the competitive performances through the first four rounds of the Mitre 10 Cup.
But coach Dale McLeod felt it had been the other way around — the competitive performances came from the new-found belief.
The side had had a session with psychologist David Galbraith before the season. He had been involved with the Chiefs when they won back-to-back Super Rugby titles under Dave Rennie.
This week he returned for another session, as the Stags prepare to play Northland in Whangarei tomorrow.
Fostering belief and accountability had been key focuses and McLeod felt that had been key to how it had performed.
"It’s just about us really believing in ourselves, that on our day we can beat anyone," he said.
"That’s just the way the competition is.
"We could easily be 4-0, if we scored one more try and got one more penalty.
"But at the same time we could have not scored a try and not got a penalty and been 0-4.
"It’s a tough competition and on their day anyone can beat anyone."
McLeod said one of the Stags’ most important changes from previous seasons was its shift in attitude.
The team had been competitive and very respectable in a 10-9 loss to Waikato last Sunday.
In the past it would have seen that as a pleasing outcome.
But this year it expected more.
"It’s all right to talk about last year’s team like that — you’re going well or its a respectable performance.
"But this year, we didn’t win so we’re not happy. That’s probably the difference.
"For us it’s about putting ourselves in matches to give ourselves a chance.
"We’re learning a lot about fighting tough contests."
McLeod had previously been involved with the Northland side so knew what to expect.
He said it was a passionate team with dangerous players that would look to throw the ball around.
It had also made a strong start, winning three of its first four games.
There were a handful of a changes in the Southland team as it looked to keep its side fresh.
Props Siate Tokolahi and Ethan de Groot both drop to the bench, while hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate and lock Michael McKee return to the starting line-up.
Captain Tony Lamborn moves back to No 8 and Matt James returns on the openside flank.
In the backs, Logan Crowley and Scott Eade return to form the nine-10 combination, while Penikolo Latu and Amanaki Nicole will start on the wings, with Isaac Te Tamaki moving to centre.
McLeod said another focus for the team had been on trusting its entire squad, which would become important in the coming weeks.
Kick-off is at 1.15pm.
Mitre 10 Cup
Whangerei, tomorrow, 1.15pm
Southland: Josh Moorby, Amanaki Nicole, Isaac Te Tamaki, Ray Nu’u, Penikolo Latu, Scott Eade, Logan Crowley, Tony Lamborn (captain), Matthew James, Charles Alaimalo, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Mike McKee, Chris Apoua, Greg Pleasants-Tate, Joseph Walsh. Reserves: Sebastian Siataga, Ethan De Groot, Siate Tokolahi, Ray Tatafu, Glenn Preston, Raniera Takarangi, Greg Dyer, Rory van Vugt.
Northland: Scott Gregory, Jone Macilai, Rene Ranger, Blake Hohaia, Pisi Leilua, Dan Hawkins, Sam Nock, Matt Matich, Kara Pryor, Tom Robinson, Temo Mayanavanua, Sam Caird, Coree Te Whata-Colley, Jordan Olsen (captain), Ross Wright. Reserves: Paddy Atkins, Luatangi Li, Kalolo Tuiloma, Fano Funaki, Rob Rush, Will Grant, Johnny Cooper, Kalani Going.