Stags seek change ahead of first match

Dave Hewett
Dave Hewett
In terms of Southland rugby seasons, they don’t get much worse than what unfolded last year.

The Stags went through all 10 Mitre10 Cup games without registering a win and in the process let in an average of 45 points per game.

It was a season which left scars.

But new Stags coach Dave Hewett said those scars had simply provided a reminder for the returning players of what they needed to fix.

The former All Black prop has been impressed with the attitude of the players who have returned from last year’s nightmare as they brace themselves for the 2018 Mitre10 Cup.

"They know where things went wrong last year, both in terms of an on-field and off-field point of view. So they actually have got a desire to try and change it.

"To a man, all the guys that have come back from last year have said, ‘I want to change it.’

"So that is really beneficial for me and the other guys, because I can’t draw on those feelings because I wasn’t here; they can.

"All the guys, but particularly the ones who were here last year, are driving hard around how you deliver on the field and off the field the professionalism in order to do your role."

The Stags will open their season tomorrow against Hawke’s Bay at Rugby Park in Invercargill.

Southland has had three preseason hit outs: a 34-7 win over North Otago before close losses to Otago and Northland.

Hewett was looking forward to starting the season proper.

"For me there is excitement and also a bit of venturing into the unknown because I’m leading for the first time.

"There is a bit of anxiousness. I want to get it done. The guys are in a good space, we are looking forward to it."

The Stags’ captaincy duties will be shared this year. Young hooker Flynn Thomas and veteran back James Wilson have been named as co-captains.Hewett was comfortable handing the job to 20-year-old Thomas.

"He’s led before with different age-group teams. Leading is not new to him, obviously leading at this level is.

"But the good thing with Flynn is he displays the characteristics of a leader, he is respected within the team, and he does his job well."

Wilson was initially being lined up to play at second five-eighth this season, but on the back of injuries to Tayler Adams and Greg Dyer he will start in the No 10 jersey against Hawke’s Bay tomorrow.

Midfielder Ray Nu’u has also been ruled out of the competition opener with a ankle injury while hooker Brayden Mitchell is out for the season with a neck injury.

Interestingly, the Stags have named the loose forward trio of Wade McRae, Tony Lamborn, and Phil Halder who have all played most of their rugby as traditional openside flankers.

- Logan Savory

 

Southland v Hawkes Bay
Invercargill, tomorrow, 4.35pm

Southland: Tauasosi Tuimavave, Isaac Te Tamaki, Aleki Morris, Matt Johnson, Jackson Ormond, James Wilson (cc), Jay Renton, Tony Lamborn, Phil Halder, Wade McRae, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Ben Fotheringham, Morgan Mitchell, Flynn Thomas (cc), Joe Walsh.

Reserves; Andrew Ready, Shaun Stodart, Chris Apoua, Ray Tatafu, Bill Fukofuka, Nico Costa, Broc Hooper, Lewis Ormond.

Hawkes Bay: JJ Taulagi, Jonah Lowe, Stacey Ili, Sasa Tofilau, Mason Emerson, Tiaan Falcon, Brad Weber, Gareth Evans, Josh Kaifa, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Tom Parsons, Michael Allardice, Joe Apikotoa, Ash Dixon (captain), Mark Braidwood.

Reserves: Ben Power, Ben May, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Sam Ulufonua, Devan Flanders, Folau Fakatava, Pasqualle Dunn, Michael Buckley

Referee: Jamie Nutbrown (Canterbury)

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