Stags aim to break drought in the cold

Dave Hewett.
Dave Hewett.
Southland rugby could do with some good news.

The Stags have gone two years without a win in the Mitre 10 Cup.

The Highlanders have pulled out of an agreement to stage a game in Invercargill each year, and earlier this week Rugby Park Stadium was under a blanket of snow, which does not bode well for tonight's match between Southland and Northland.

But coach Dave Hewett remains hopeful.

''I'm just driving down there now,'' he said yesterday.

''I'm hoping it is green rather than white. But looking around the rest of the grassed areas in Invercargill, they look back to normal.

''The biggest concern will be the moisture level, given we've had a bit of rain as well.''

It is probably not going to be a festival of running rugby but Southland will not mind at all if it can get a win.

The Stags have not won a national provincial match since October 2016, when it beat Northland 39-31.

Southland's losing streak has swollen to 21 games. It is the pink and purple polka dot leviathan cluttering up the space set aside for warm fuzzies. And as much as the team would like to focus on the processes and the performance, it always comes back to the result.

Southland was well beaten 62-19 by Canterbury in its last warm-up game. While people have focused on the margin of defeat, Hewett saw some positive signs.

''I thought we were really competitive in that first half and we did a great job.''

An arguably dubious yellow card proved costly for Southland, though.

''If that hadn't have happened we'd probably have been up at halftime.''

Southland trailed 22-19 at the break, but Canterbury posted 50 unanswered points to pull away.

''I take responsibility for that because I made 16 changes in that second half. That was always going to disrupt things.

''But I was impressed with the first-half effort and some of the individual performances in the second half.''

Utility back Lewis Ormond and hooker Brayden Mitchell got some good game time and shone.

Outside back Rory van Vugt and front rower Greg Pleasants-Tate are returning to full fitness but were not considered for selection.

''Other than that, we've had a full squad to select from.

''Northland will certainly bring a lot of intensity and we just need to be ready for that.

''If we can play to the potential we have, then it is going to be a great night.

''The reality is we haven't won for two years and we want to win a game. The way we do that is by performing well and replicating what we did against Canterbury in the first half for 80 minutes.''

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