Bekhuis gets green light for Shield challenge
Southland have received encouraging news with Josh Bekhuis all set to play as they look to bring the Ranfurly Shield back to Invercargill for the third time in four years.
The Stags will take on Counties in Pukekohe tomorrow night in a Ranfurly Shield fixture.
Not only would a victory see the shield return to Southland it would also book a place in the provincial Championship semifinals.
A cloud was hanging over key forward Bekhuis in the leadup to tomorrow night's game after he sprained a knee awkwardly in the second half of the loss to Hawke's Bay in Invercargill last week.
It forced him from the field and it coincided with the Stags losing some of its grunt in close quarters and, in turn, failing against Hawke's Bay late in the contest.
The Highlanders second-rower was originally bracketed with Hale T-Pole in the starting spot but that bracket was lifted when Bekhuis proved his fitness at training last night.
The campaign, it seems, has taken its toll on Southland with Bekhuis one of a large number of players who couldn't take a full part in Tuesday's training because of niggly injuries.
Prop Nick Barrett is one who has been hampered by injury and he, too, was initially bracketed in the reserves yesterday with Michael Peterson. However, he also did what was required at training last night to highlight he was ready to go fortomorrow night's game and that bracket was also lifted.
Southland coach David Henderson has been consistent with his selection in recent weeks and has stuck by the starting 15 which played Hawke's Bay.
Southland probably has been handed the best time to challenge Counties for the shield with a couple of key figures missing at this stage of the season.
Impressive halfback August Pulu, under the instructions of his Super Rugby franchise the Chiefs, has undergone corrective surgery for a long-term stress fracture in a leg.
Another of their major attacking threats, Sherwin Stowers, won't front against Southland tomorrow night.
Stowers has been dynamic at the back in the No 14 jersey for Counties this season but is currently on sevens duties with the New Zealand team.
Counties will not announce their team for tonight's game until after their captain's run today.
Expect a long list of changes from the team which lost to Canterbury on Sunday after coach Tana Umaga chose rest a large number of frontline players.
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