Forget the streak - Southland's focus on future

Veteran loose forward Adam Thomson makes a tackle during Otago's successful defence of the...
Veteran loose forward Adam Thomson makes a tackle during Otago's successful defence of the Ranfurly Shield. Photo: Getty Images.
Let's have a good chat about you know what.

It is the obvious subject which no-one wants to mention but always does.

It is the burden no-one in the team wishes to bear but everyone must carry.

It is the handbrake which prevents Southland from going into games with more confidence.

And maybe there is just a little too much noise about the Stags 26-game losing streak.

The side has strung together two consecutive winless seasons and is halfway through another season without posting a victory.

Everyone in the camp is well aware it has been nearly three years since the side registered a win in the Mitre 10 Cup.

Coach Dave Hewett certainly does not need reminding. It can weigh heavily at times but Hewett is keen for it not to be the main focus.

"Everyone knows it is there. Geez, we get reminded about it every second day," he said.

"The reality is you can't change what has happened. If you are always thinking about the past, that is where you'll live.

"We are trying to think about the future. There are a lot of people who support the Stags who remind us how the performances are going but are also sticking by us."

Today's match against Manawatu in Invercargill is an opportunity to snap the streak and Hewett is optimistic. He has to be but the Stags have shown progress.

Aside from the blowout against Canterbury, the Stags have defended with tenacity and they have created scoring opportunities. That breakthrough win looks closer.

"There are people out there who can see the change, they can see the growth and they can see the progress. But we've just got to do more of it.

"I know the other unions are worried about who will be the first one to come unstuck against the Stags and I'm kind of hoping it is this year.

"So you can talk about the losing streak - yeah, it is there. But we are rebuilding the team.

"We are trying to increase skill-sets. We are trying to increase the belief in the players around what their ability is and that they are actually good enough to win some of these games.

"I'm not saying we are good enough to win all of them but we are good enough to win games."

Manawatu is fresh from its first win of the season. It beat Northland 31-25 in Palmerston North last week.

Ngani Laumape was unlucky to miss out on the World Cup squad and will be a threat in the midfield, while halfback Jamie Booth and first five-eighth Otere Black have a nice combination going.

The forward pack is rugged. Lock Liam Mitchell is playing well.

Southland had more than its share of the ball in the 41-23 loss to Hawke's Bay, so that bodes well.

Stags captain and blindside flanker Brayden Mitchell had a strong game, and there were some lovely touches out wide by winger Lewis Ormond.

First five-eighth Marty McKenzie is in good touch, as well.

Southland v Manawatu

Invercargill, 5.05pm

Southland: Josh Moorby, Lewis Ormond, Isaac Te Tamaki, Ray Nu’u, Lausii Taliauli, Marty McKenzie, Logan Crowley, Charles Alaimalo, Matt James, Brayden Mitchell (captain), Mike McKee, Ray Tatafu, Morgan Mitchell, Greg Pleasants-Tate, Joe Walsh. Reserves: Flynn Thomas, Shaun Stodart, Howard Sililoto, Ben Paulin, Bill Fukofuka, Jay Renton, Mitch Taylor.

Manawatu: Sam Malcolm, Andre Taylor, Hamish Northcott, Ngani Laumape, Adam Boult, Otere Black, Jamie Booth (captain), Brayden Iose, Johnny Galloway, Nick
Crosswell, Liam Mitchell, Fraser Stone, Samuela Tawake, Sam Stewart, Fa’alelei Sione. Reserves: Nick Grogan, Fraser Armstrong, Sione Asi, Sione Tu’ipulotu, Rhys
Pedersen, Griffin Culver, James Tofa, Te Rangatira Waitokia.

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