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Southland is not sitting on its hands despite summer arriving this weekend.
The Southland union is holding a clinic this weekend to expose its young players to the realities of the professional side of the sport.
Southland is the smallest union in terms of player numbers and commercial income and has to work hard to hang on to players.
Rugby Southland academy manager David Hall said the initiative this weekend was a chance to expose young players to the reality of professional rugby.
Hall said the message was players did not have to leave Southland to find a pathway to becoming a professional player.
Southland has lost some top young players to other provinces in the past couple of years. First five-eighth Mitch Taylor, who played in the Mitre 10 Cup last season, has indicated he will play in Dunedin next year.
Sean Withy attended Southland Boys’ High School but captained Otago under-19 this season.
In a first, Rugby Southland Academy and Southland Stags coaching staff will combine to put the region’s best up-and-coming secondary school rugby talents to the test.
The union has identified 42 of the region’s best 16-17 year olds who will be put through their paces today at Stadium Southland.
The aim is to introduce them to what it takes to be a professional.
The clinic will consist of mental skills and nutrition in the classroom followed by a testing of strength, fitness and speed.
Then out on to the field to do technical and tactical development skills.
All athletes will be sent away over the holiday break with clear expectations in which areas the academy and Southland Stags coaches would like to see progress.
The group will come together in late February next year to check progress and for further development and testing.
Players will then be selected for a pre-academy programme, which may lead to the Highlanders under-18 camp.
The best performers may train with the Southland Mitre 10 Cup side.
It is the goal of Rugby Southland to create a clear understanding for the Southland rugby community concerning the pathway to professional rugby.
To attend clinic
Levi Gage, Mitchell Tinnock, Ben McMaster, Hayden Michaels, Josh Murell, Ian De Reuck, Cameron Millar, Micaiah Johnston Brown, Callum Nimmo, Clayton Payne, Josh George, Jayden Robin, Kiahn Johnson, Liam Mcintosh, Jack Taylor, McKenzie Hunter, Jackson Bevin, Garoth Van Der Straaten, Zyon Taylor, Aaron Withy, Josh Evans, Jemiour Collins, Will Stodart, Jack Churstain, Alex Keen, Grayson Elder, Kaea Nikora Ballock, Nick Munro, Caleb Williams, Sam Cavanagh, Jahn Stoddart, Aidan Harrington, Ngarrimu Paraki, Jacob Mika, Te Hura Wilson, Taylor Peterson, Riley Smith, Carlos Tawhai, Hunter Fahey, Jacob McIntye, Bailey Diack, Jordan Goodall.