Southland shield stars reuniting to mark anniversary

Glory days - they pass you by.

But there is always an opportunity to revisit them.

And that is exactly what the Ranfurly Shield-winning Southland teams from 2009 and 2011 have planned this weekend.

It has been 10 years since the Stags snapped a 50-year drought and beat Canterbury 9-3 to snaffle the shield, so it seemed a good time to plan a reunion.

The teams have a weekend of golf, fishing and wining and dining planned. And, of course, they will go to the Southland-Manawatu game at Rugby Park in Invercargill tomorrow night.

The Stags are struggling these days. It has been nearly three years since the team won a game in the Mitre 10 Cup.

But in 2009, Southland had the likes of talented five-eighth Robbie Robinson, All Black halfback Jimmy Cowan and a supporting crew which included utility forward David Hall and midfielder Jason Kawau.

Hall and Kawau work for Rugby Southland these days and will be attending the reunion. Kawau was at second five-eighth and Hall was at the back of the scrum when Southland shocked Canterbury 9-3 to win the log'o wood.

Kawau, who is an assistant coach for the Stags, is looking forward to the occasion. He will miss some of the celebrations while he prepares the class of 2019 for the match against the Turbos.

But he will get a chance to catch up with his former team-mates tomorrow night.

"What I remember from 2009 was that there was a quiet confidence, I guess," Kawau said.

"We had a pretty good game plan and we stuck to it. The ball was wet, so we played traditional footy really. We kept it tight and didn't go too wide too often."

The team celebrated with family and friends at the hotel afterwards and "it was a pretty big night, as you can imagine".

"That fact Southland hadn't won it for 50 years made it really cool as well."

The Stags held on to the shield for six challenges before Canterbury reclaimed it towards the end of the 2010 season. Southland took it back in 2011 with a 22-19 win against Canterbury.

About 25-30 former Stags players are expected to attend the reunion, including Hall.

He has been in Taupo at the national under-19 tournament with Southland. He manages the academy for Rugby Southland.

"I have not seen some of the boys for 10 years, so it will be good to catch up ... and tell a few stories about the old days.

"We probably did not understand at the time how much it was going to mean for the province.

"When we got back to Invercargill there were 5000 to 6000 at the airport - it was absolutely nuts.

"It was a career highlight for a lot of us, that is for sure.

"Southland is having a tough period at the moment but you go through these periods. We've just got to keep working hard and hopefully in the near future the boys will break the losing streak."


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