There's concern around the fitness of Stags lock Josh Bekhuis ahead of next week's Ranfurly Shield challenge against Counties Manukau.
The robust second rower was forced off Rugby Park on Thursday night after suffering a medial ligament strain to a knee during the 23-15 loss to Hawke's Bay.
His loss was part of a double blow for Southland, with Michael Fatialofa also leaving the field with a bicep injury.
While Bekhuis will be monitored ahead of the Pukekohe challenge, there's more optimism around Fatialofa's availability and Nick Barrett is also making good progress.
Thursday's result has created a congested run to the final four for Southland, Hawke's Bay and Otago.
While Manawatu are still a mathematic chance of pushing their way into the playoffs, it would be unlikely.
Tasman could well win their two remaining games against Taranaki and Manawatu to comfortably claim the top place in the NPC's championship and a home semifinal in either Blenheim or Nelson.
Hawke's Bay's win at Rugby Park, their first since 2007, has given the Magpies the edge in the running for the other home semifinal, but they face a tough assignment in the final round against Wellington.
If they fail to gain a bonus point against the premiership frontrunners, and Southland beat Counties Manukau with a bonus point, the Stags could still grab a home semifinal.
Otago's run home is more complicated.
Tony Brown's side has three games in eight days, starting against North Harbour tonight.
They would need to beat Harbour and Northland away, and Auckland at home in the final round, to grab a home semifinal.
Meanwhile, Marist beat the Barbarians 28-19 in the final of the Southland club sevens final on Thursday night.
The Southland under-16 team, sponsored by Redpath Electrical and Macaulay Ford, beat Canterbury Country 23-20 in Westport yesterday to advance to today's final against tournament favourites Canterbury Metro.
Southland led 20-0 at halftime before having a player sinbinned 10 minutes into the second half. Canterbury Country scored the next 20 points before Menzies College pupil Caleb Young kicked the winning penalty on fulltime.
The Southland under 18 team won their quarterfinal 27-11 against Marlborough yesterday despite being on the end of a lopsided penalty count and will take on Canterbury Metro in a semfinal today.
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