Stags coach happy with NPC draw

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 12/03/2014

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Southland will open their 2014 national provincial championship season against Bay of Plenty on Friday, August 15.

The New Zealand Rugby Union released this year's competition schedule which looks to be  favourable for Southland,  both from an on-field point of view and in terms of attracting crowds.

New Stags coach Brad Mooar said he was pleased the draw was locked in place, and planning was under way.

''We're reasonably happy from our perspective. We've obviously got Otago on Saturday,  which is important for the union and a great chance to have the local derby with plenty of people in the stadium.''

The toughest part to the schedule looks to be in week six of the competition when the Stags take on Northland, Tasman and Manawatu in the space of only  seven days.

''There's a challenge there but we've got to take the bull by the horns and get into it with that. Everyone is going to have a busy period and it's just about being smart about recovery and sharpening the sword. We certainly won't be flogging them in that week,'' Mooar said.

Given the condensed schedule teams are likely to target particular games, especially those in their own division.

If Southland win all of their six championship games but lose the  bulk of their four crossover games against premiership teams,  they would more than likely still feature high up in the semifinals rankings.

''Now that the draw's out you can start to plan a bit more of the footy programme. I think it's great having a home game first-up, the second day of the ITM Cup. To play Bay of Plenty at home is going to be an excellent opportunity for us and then North Harbour before heading into the Otago game. So motivation early is not going to be a problem - that's treated us  pretty well.''

Southland will play six of their 10 games on Saturdays with three of their five home games on Saturdays.

The other two home games will be a Wednesday night fixture against Tasman in week six and the opening game against Bay of Plenty on a Friday.

Southland look unlikely to get a Ranfurly Shield challenge in 2014.

Otago will be the first to get their shot at taking the shield off holders Counties in week two.

Hawke's Bay are next with a week-three challenge. They will be hoping to settle the score,  having lost the shield to Counties Manukau just one week after taking it off Otago last year.

Taranaki will open this year's provincial season by hosting Counties at Yarrow Stadium on Thursday, August 14.

STAGS 2014 NPC DRAW

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v BOP, 7.35pm Friday August 15 in Invercargill.

v North Harbour, 7.35pm Thursday August 21 in Auckland.

v Otago, 5.35pm Saturday August 30 in Invercargill.

v Taranaki, 4.35pm Saturday September 6 in New Plymouth.

v Northland, 4.35pm Saturday September 13 in Invercargill.

v Tasman, 7.35pm Wednesday September 17 in Invercargill.

v Manawatu, 7.35pm Saturday September 21 in Palmerston North.

v Canterbury, 4.35pm Sunday September 28 in Christchurch.

v Counties, 2.35pm Saturday October 4 in Invercargill.

v Hawke's Bay, 5.35pm Saturday October 11 in Napier.

- The Southland Times

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