Stags out to salvage pride against Otago

PRESSURE ON: Stags coach David Henderson.
PRESSURE ON: Stags coach David Henderson.

After three straight losses to Otago, the Stags are happy to claim the underdog's tag for tomorrow's important NPC championship match in Dunedin.

Southland haven't beaten Otago since 2011, including a 47-28 hammering by the visitors in a pre-season game in Gore earlier this year.

Following a period of sustained success over the blue-and-golds, it's a record which rankles.

"We need the points and so do they," Southland coach David Henderson said.

"To me they are the favourites going into the game, because they've clearly beaten us the last [few] games."

Henderson said the pre-season loss to Otago in Gore was a result both teams had moved on from.

"Clearly their organisation was better. They've got a very experienced nine and at 10, quite a good runner. That's where they broke us open in Gore. I'm confident we've improved since then, but they will have to. It's a matter of we know what we are up against and we need to focus on ourselves rather than what they are doing."

The Stags have a settled look to them after getting through a season bottleneck which saw them play three games in 10 days, with two dramatic late wins to show for it.

Bryan Milne has been named on the right wing after being troubled by a hip injury, while Gareth Williams-Spiers has also been affected by a groin injury, but will start against Otago.

Otago prop Scott Manson survived a video conference on Wednesday after being cited for stamping.

He was found guilty but the incident was considered minor and he received an off-field yellow card, a decision which will have raised eyebrows in the Southland camp after Jamie Mackintosh had to sit out a game for a similar offence.

TJ Ioane replaces Paul Grant at No 8, with Liam Coltman assuming the captaincy. Tom Donnelly returns from illness.

Otago: Peter Breen, Buxton Popoali'i, Kieran Moffat, Jayden Spence, Fa'asiu Fuatai, Hayden Parker, Fumiaki Tanaka, TJ Ioane, Hugh Blake, Gareth Evans, Tom Franklin, Tom Donnelly, Scott Manson, Liam Coltman (captain), Craig Millar. Reserves: Sam Anderson-Heather, Aki Seiuli, Charlie O'Connell, Lee Allan, Josh Renton, Teihorgani Walden, Matt Faddes.

Southland: Robbie Robinson, Bryan Milne, Cardiff Vaega, Willis Halaholo, Gareth Williams-Spiers, Marty McKenzie, Scott Eade, Elliot Dixon, Tim Boys, John Hardie, Michael Fatialofa, Josh Bekhuis, JP Koen, David Hall, Jamie Mackintosh (captain). Reserves: Talemaitoga Tuapati, Nick Barrett, Hale T-Pole, Naulia Dawai, Tayler Adams, Calvary Fonoti, Tim Cornforth.

The Southland Times