Demanding days as Stags look to future
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.
Southland lock forward Bill Fukofuka at a training session in the Invercargill velodrome yesterday.