Southland's chance to make amends
Southland have been provided with the ideal chance to redeem themselves after a disappointing couple of weeks when they head to Blenheim to take on Tasman in a Championship semifinal on Saturday.
Southland made a poor start to 2014 round-robin series losing three straight games. That was followed by a strong mid-season run where they recordedsuccessive wins over Bay of Plenty, North Harbour and Otago, but Southland have faded in the past two weeks.
They lost to Hawke's Bay in Invercargill and then Counties in a Ranfurly Shield challenge in Pukekohe on Friday night.
The Stags' semifinal fate hung in the balance yesterday as they needed Tasman to beat Manawatu to retain their fourth place spot in the competition standings.
Tasman did just that, crushing Manawatu 57-14, and now Southland are very much still in the title race, even if they have the difficult task of fending off the high-flying Tasman side who are top qualifiers.
Southland coach David Henderson said his team were desperate to get another shot after the disappointing 25-7 loss to Counties.
"We're pretty chuffed because to finish the season the way we did against Counties I would have been disappointed to be fair," Henderson told The Southland Times yesterday.
"It just gives us another chance to show what we can do because we didn't [on Friday night]."
Southland showed those capabilities against Otago, in Dunedin, but those sorts of performances haven't come often enough this season as they went through round-robin play with a four-win six-loss record.
If Southland are to upset Tasman and progress to a Championship semifinal there will be several areas that need to be sorted out. One of the most important is the form of fullback Robbie Robinson.
On good days Robinson is one the country's most exciting attacking talents but on a bad day it can go horribly wrong and that has been the case on too many occasions this season.
"Robbie's probably his own worst critic and I think at times he tries too hard and it just doesn't work for him. He knows he's not playing his best rugby and he needs to relax a bit and start enjoying his rugby and not try too hard," Henderson said.
Southland will be missing winger Tim Cornforth for the semifinal with the Australian nursing a nasty rib cartilage injury, Gareth Williams-Spiers is also still on the injured list.
Henderson said the injuries did test their depth.
"We havn't had a full complement of players available because of, I guess, a lack of funding so we're going to be stretched a bit this week."
Saturday's semifinal will kickoff at 4.35pm in Blenheim.
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