Young stags ready to make their mark
LOGAN SAVORY takes a look at 12 new faces in the Southland Stags 2014 national provincial championship squad.
Sopoaga does not need a lot of introducing to southern rugby folk.
He was the Highlanders' starting first five-eighth this season and was an impressive off-season recruit by Rugby Southland.
The 23-year-old previously played his provincial rugby for Wellington but made the switch to the Stags on a two-year contract.
The utility back hails from Canterbury and played his schoolboy rugby for the Christchurch Boys' High School first XV.
From 2008 to 2011, he played his provincial rugby for Hawke's Bay but has now linked up with Southland.
The 26-year-old has also played for the New Zealand sevens team.
The 23-year-old fullback is another Canterbury rugby product, playing six matches for the NPC champions last year.
Verran started in three of the first four games before falling down the pecking order behind Colin Slade and Tom Taylor.
He previously played under Southland coach Brad Mooar with the Canterbury under-21 team.
He was part of the Galbraith Shield-winning Woodlands team in Southland's club competition this season.
Mitchell has played for Southland at age-group level and for Southland Country.
The younger brother of Highlanders hooker Brayden Mitchell made his mark at No 8 playing for the Gore High School first XV.
He was shifted to hooker in his first season of senior club rugby with the Eastern-Northern Barbarians.
He then made another shift last year to the tighthead prop position, which seems to be the best fit for him.
To help him adjust to the new role, he spent the off-season playing club rugby in Wales.
Loco moved to New Zealand from Fiji in 2007 on a scholarship and joined up with the Rotorua Boys' High School first XV.
Moving to Auckland, he then played for the Teachers Eastern club.
In 2010, he was picked up by Heartland team King Country as a loan player and started in all 11 games either on the wing or at fullback.
Last year he was part of the Counties squad but struggled for game time which prompted his move to Southland.
Stewart is another from the Canterbury rugby production line who has chose Southland to have a crack.
He was a Canterbury squad member last year but the lock/blindside flanker did not see any game time.
The former St Bede's College student was part of the 2009 New Zealand Secondary Schools team.
He played for Blues in this year's Southland club competition.
The teenage No 8 was a Auckland age-group representative who has headed south to try crack the provincial scene.
He last year captained Tangaroa College to win the national coed schools final and was one of the team's best players.
He played for Blues in this season's Southland club rugby competition.
The 23-year-old outside back made his international debut for Tonga this year in a Pacific Nations Cup game against Samoa.
He scored a try in his debut game. Katoa last season represented Auckland B and has shifted to Southland to try crack the Stags.
He played a couple of games for Marist during the club season but was not in the province before the June 7 cutoff to allow him to play in the semifinal and final.
The former Central Southland College student has been one of Midlands' best players in recent seasons.
he loose forward has caught the eye of many with his form at Southland club level and he has been rewarded with a spot in the Stags squad.
Keresoma is a former Samoan under-20 representative who moved from Auckland to play club rugby in Dunedin early in the season.
He did not settle there and made one more shift to Southland to link up with the Star club.
Despite not originally being part of Rugby Southland's wider-training squad, he has impressed enough to get included in the main squad.
The younger brother of former Stags and Highlanders player Kendrick, Lynn followed his sibling south from Cambridge a couple of years ago.
He quickly become one of Woodlands' best in Southland club rugby. The 22-year-old is an outside back.
Halaholo was a Auckland age-group representative but opted to follow his older brother Willis and make the shift from Auckland to Southland this year.
The 20-year-old impressed for Marist in club rugby and is one of three hookers named in the Southland squad.
The Southland Times