Mackintosh to lead from front
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph believes Stags captain Jamie Mackintosh is the man to lead the franchise's revival.
Mackintosh, 25, has lead Southland since 2008 and has grown in the role since a difficult beginning.
"I think the responsibility of leadership made him play better, which I think is a good sign," Joseph said.
"He's been a Highlander for some time but he hasn't had the opportunity to be the leader and I'm a new coach.
"We had a couple of yarns about a few things and I'm really confident he's ready to take to the step up and take this team forward," Joseph said.
Mackintosh replaces Southland team-mate Jimmy Cowan as the Highlanders skipper for the 2011 season.
Joseph said he had discussed the captaincy with Cowan and was confident there would be no ill feeling.
"Jimmy's one of our senior players.
"He's got a big year next year. "His focus will clearly be playing and establishing himself in the All Blacks and getting some form. It wasn't a problem.
"He's worked with Whopper [Mackintosh] for a long time," he said.
"He wasn't that disappointed. He wasn't surprised. He felt that Whopper was ready, he's a good friend of Jamie's and he was confident he would do a good job.
"He's going to be a leader in this team – everything we get from Jimmy Cowan we are going to get anyway."
Mackintosh said yesterday he had been approached a couple of weeks back about the Highlanders captaincy.
His initial reaction was he was keen to take it on but wanted to talk to people close to him, including his father Alistair, before accepting the role.
"I didn't know Jamie that well so we had a few meetings and it gave me the chance to get to know him better.
"He's a straight shooter and we've talked a lot about how it will work."
The Highlanders named a largely predictable squad yesterday with many of the selections already announced or signalled in the media.
There were a couple of surprises with Counties Manukau centre Siale Piutau and Wellington tighthead prop David Te Moana both named.
Joseph said Piutau had developed well with the Counties under the guidance of Tana Umaga, while Te Moana would offer plenty to the team having previously played Super rugby for the Western Force as well as in France.
The Highlanders squad includes 13 Southland players, a record for the province, with David Hall and Nic Barrett gaining contracts with the Crusaders.
Of the 160 players who received contracts yesterday, 12 of them were shifting franchises, while 40 will be playing Super rugby for the first time.
Former All Blacks Tana Umaga (Chiefs), Daniel Braid and Brad Mika (both Blues) have returned to New Zealand rugby after stints overseas.
- The Southland Times