De­mand­ing days as Stags look to fu­ture

The Southland Times - - News - Jamie Searle jamie.searle@stuff.co.nz

De­spite no wins this year, South­land head coach Dave Hewett has seen a lot of en­cour­ag­ing signs in the team to de­velop in 2019.

Hewett, and as­sis­tant coaches Ja­son Kawau and Dale MacLeod, have in­tro­duced new train­ing pro­grammes this year and worked hard on team cul­ture and player con­fi­dence. Hewett said a lot of the play­ers were in their first or sec­ond year of Mitre 10 Cup com­pe­ti­tion and the ex­pe­ri­ence gained would stand them in good stead for the fu­ture.

Hewett, in his first year of coach­ing South­land, made it clear on his ar­rival that fans needed to be pa­tient for the team to re­gain win­ning form. He be­lieved the new sys­tems im­ple­mented into the team’s play and up­skilling play­ers would pay div­i­dends next year.

‘‘You have to cre­ate a foun­da­tion, and we’ve done that this year.’’

South­land plays it fi­nal game in this year’s Mitre 10 Cup com­pe­ti­tion, against Manawatu¯ , in Palmer­ston North, to­mor­row. Next week, the team and of­fi­cials will meet for a de­brief on the 2018 sea­son.

Fif­teen of the squad have con­tracts for next year and that group will have a break be­fore re­sum­ing train­ing in De­cem­ber. Hewett said he saw a lot of good play from South­land this year but it was in patches.

‘‘We’ve got to be men­tally tough and fo­cused for the whole 80 min­utes.’’

If South­land could do that to­mor­row, they were in with a good chance of win­ning, Hewett said.

The game will be South­land’s third in eight days af­ter losses to Auck­land on Wednesday and Bay of Plenty last Sun­day.

The re­turn of three All Blacks into the Manawatu¯ team – Nehe Mil­ner-Skud­der, Ngani Laumape and Jack­son He­mopo – will make South­land’s task a bit more dif­fi­cult. Manawatu¯ , with two wins this year, is pay­ing $1.13 on the TAB’s fixed odds bet­ting. South­land is at $5.60.

The South­land team is: Ethan De Groot, Jesse Mac­Don­ald, Mor­gan Mitchell, Ben Fother­ing­ham, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Ray Tatafu, Phil Halder, Tony Lam­born, Nico Costa, James Wil­son (c), Rory van Vugt, Ray Nu’u, Matt John­son, Isaac Te Ta­maki, Lewis Or­mond.

KAVINDA HERATH/STUFF

South­land lock for­ward Bill Fuko­fuka at a train­ing ses­sion in the In­ver­cargill velo­drome yes­ter­day.

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