New faces in­tro­duced for Stags

The Southland Times - - SPORT - LO­GAN SA­VORY

Ben Fother­ing­ham and Sam Stewart are in line to make their first­class rugby de­buts for the South­land Stags in to­day’s pro­vin­cial show­down with Otago.

A cou­ple of open­ings on the Stags bench, for South­land’s fi­nal fix­ture of 2017, have pro­vided Fother­ing­ham and Stewart with their op­por­tu­nity.

Fother­ing­ham is a young lock who was part of the Marist team which won the Gal­braith Shield fi­nal this year, and has been play­ing for the South­land B team through­out the rep­re­sen­ta­tive sea­son.

He re­places Tepasu Thomas on the bench with Thomas mov­ing into the start­ing lineup with Manaaki Selby-Rickit out.

Stewart plays his club rugby for Star and cap­tained the South­land B team this sea­son.

He and twin brother Jor­dan have been train­ing with the Stags at times through­out the sea­son while wait­ing for an op­por­tu­nity. For Sam, that op­por­tu­nity should come from the bench to­day.

He re­places Flynn Thomas on the bench with Thomas mov­ing to the start­ing line up in the ab­sence of first-choice hooker Bray­den Mitchell.

Both Fother­ing­ham and Stewart have pro­gressed through the South­land age-group ranks and played for the South­land Boys’ High School first XV.

With Mitchell miss­ing, and Elliot Dixon also un­avail­able, tight-head prop Guy Mil­lar will cap­tain the Stags to­day against an Otago team which will fea­ture some of High­landers team-mates from this year. The other change to the for­ward pack is in the loose for­wards with No 8 Bill Fuko­fuka drop­ping to the bench.

Flanker Tupou Sopoaga will wear the No 8 jer­sey with Tim Boys join­ing Phil Halder on the sides of the scrum.

In the back­line, Scott Eade re­turns to start at first five-eighth with Greg Dyer drop­ping back to the bench.

There has been a po­si­tional switch in the out­side backs with Ryan Ton­gia start­ing on the wing and Lewis Or­mond at full­back.

The Stags have one last chance to sal­vage some­thing from what has been an em­bar­rass­ing 2017 cam­paign.

They will take on Otago in Dunedin in their fi­nal Mitre 10 Cup game this sea­son which will kick-off at 5.05pm be­fore the plan­ning starts in an at­tempt to try to find a way to lift South­land from rock bot­tom.

Noth­ing to­day will erase that em­bar­rass­ing tag at­tached to what we have seen from the boys in ma­roon this year.

How­ever, the Don­ald Stu­art Memo­rial Tro­phy would at least pro­vide the loyal Stags faith­ful with some­thing to smile about af­ter a bleak win­ter.

The South­land-Otago ri­valry dates back to 1887 and if there is ever a time to show some more stub­born­ness in de­fence, and a bit more on a flair on at­tack, this is as good of a mo­ment as any.

South­land also have the chance to avoid some ex­tra em­bar­rass­ment, in terms of be­ing the first South­land team since 1990 to lose ev­ery game.

In 1999 they went through the sea­son with­out a win but did pick up a draw against Otago.

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