You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Young Southland prop Ethan de Groot is bracing himself for a Mitre 10 Cup debut.
The Stags' loosehead propping stocks have been tested, with Joe Walsh and Shaun Stodart both on the injured list.
Stags coach Dave Hewett confirmed yesterday Walsh would be sidelined for about six weeks with a dislocated shoulder.
Stodart also suffered a head knock in the 52-7 loss to Wellington last Friday likely to rule him out of Southland's next assignment, against Counties tomorrow.
The injuries have halted de Groot's initial plans to head with the Southland under-19 team to the national tournament in Taupo this weekend as he eyes a shot with the Stags.
The Blues club man has spent the week training with the Stags and getting himself ready.
The call-up of de Groot might have come earlier than expected, but Hewett does not feel it would have been a bolt from the blue for the 20-year-old.
"I had a conversation with Ethan before the squad was announced and said that he wasn't involved at the moment, but he would be the first cab off the rank if we get an injury in the front row.
"I've stuck true to my word around that.
"He's got the physical characteristics. I wouldn't say he has struggled, but he has realised there is a massive intensity change from what he has been playing from what we require him to play. But he has soaked it up.
"I'm not expecting him to go out there and know everything that is going on, because he has only been here a week. Some of the maps and methods we run, he'll get a bit lost and I understand that.
"What he won't do is take a backward step, and that is what I'm looking for."
After three straight defeats by big margins, Southland is in desperate need of a good performance against Counties at Rugby Park in Invercargill.
Hewett said the preparation had been good.
"It has actually been a really good week. Yes, the performance against Wellington wasn't what we wanted, particularly the first half," he said.
"We've talked about it and addressed the mindset. We know we can do it physically, it's just the mindset.
"We were running around against some really good players last week, and I think there was a bit of possum-in-the-headlights, as well."
The Stags will announce the team to play Counties this afternoon.