Southland relishing challenge

Halfback Nico Costa clears the ball from a ruck during a Southland training session in...
Halfback Nico Costa clears the ball from a ruck during a Southland training session in Invercargill yesterday. PHOTO: LOGAN SAVORY
Southland Stags coach Dave Hewett has taken ownership of his team's lineout drive woes and now is excited about the prospect of arguably New Zealand rugby's toughest provincial challenge.

The Stags suffered a 31-10 Mitre 10 Cup round 1 loss to Hawke's Bay on Sunday on the back of conceding all four tries by the way of a lineout drive.

It has been a key focus this week and Hewett admits the preparation probably has come a week late.

"I'll take the hit for that. I had to juggle what we were doing and that [lineout drive] was one thing we had put on the backburner because we had done it in the pre-season.

"But yes, we have looked at it. Whether that means we are going to stop it I don't know, but we have certainly put some work into it."

Next up for the Stags is Tasman in Blenheim tomorrow at 2.05pm.

While you have to go back to 2016 to find the Stags' last Mitre 10 Cup victory, Tasman is a union riding a high.

The Mako is flooded with Super Rugby talent and in round 1 made a clear statement with a 24-17 victory over champion Canterbury.

When asked about the nature of the challenge, Hewett quickly pointed to excitement rather than any sort of fear.

"I'm looking forward to it and all the boys are as well," he said.

"Yes, you could call it a David and Goliath challenge, because on paper Tasman are the best in the country. They've just beaten the defending champions and we, unfortunately, are at the other end.

"But the boys are not shying away from the opportunity. We want to go up there and play the best we can against a team we know are going to bring it."

The Stags' decision-makers have made some small tweaks to the line-up for tomorrow's game.

Most notably, Shaun Stodart gets a start at loosehead prop as Joe Walsh drops to the bench.

Stodart will start alongside Flynn Thomas and Morgan Mitchell in a front row made up of players who have all progressed through the Southland age-group ranks.

The other change to the starting line-up is on the wing where Lewis Ormond has replaced his brother, Jackson.

"With Shaun and Joe, they have both done really well in the pre-season and it's a workload thing. It's nothing to do around performance. We need competition. Competition is healthy," Hewett said.

"Around Jackson [Ormond], he was a little bit quiet in the weekend. He has been a little bit sore so it's a chance for him to freshen up but not drop right out of the squad."

As of late yesterday afternoon, there were question marks over Jackson Ormond's fitness.

If he is ruled out Rory van Vugt will come into the 23.

Loose forward Bill Fukofuka has been ruled out and replaced by Jack Capil on the bench.

Southland v Tasman

Southland: Tauasosi Tuimavave, Isaac Te Tamaki, Aleki Morris-Lome, Matt Johnson, Lewis Ormond, James Wilson (cc), Jay Renton, Tony Lamborn, Phil Halder, Wade McRae, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Ben Fotheringham, Morgan Mitchell, Flynn Thomas (cc), Shaun Stodart.Reserves; Andrew Ready, Joe Walsh, Chris Apoua, Ray Tatafu, Jack Capil, Nico Costa, Broc Hooper, Jackson Ormond/ Rory van Vugt.

Tasman: Will Jordan, Jamie Spowart, Levi Aumua, David Havili (c), Solomon Alaimalo, Tim O’Malley, Jack Grooby, Isaiah Miller, Jed Brown, Ethan Blackadder, Pari Pari Parkinson, Quinten Strange, Tyrel Lomax, Andrew Makalio, Ryan Coxon. Reserves: Ray Niuia, Wyatt Crockett, Blair Prinsep, Michael Curry, Sione Havili, Ben Finay, Mitch Hunt, Alex Nankivell.


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