New faces introduced for Stags
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.