Richard Apanui could help Southland Stags

RETURNING: Former Stags first five-eighth Richard Apanui having a shot at goal in a game against Otago in 2004.
RETURNING: Former Stags first five-eighth Richard Apanui having a shot at goal in a game against Otago in 2004.

In a blast from the past Richard Apanui is tipped to make a return to Southland rugby with the hope of lining up in the No 10 jersey for the Stags in the 2014 national provincial championship season.

The goal-kicking first five-eighth played 42 games in the maroon jersey from 2002 to 2005 before heading off to play in France.

Apanui - who started his playing days with Southland as Richard Newman before changing his surname - has been playing in France since 2006 and is currently with division two club Lourdes.

Woodlands coach Damien Pine said yesterday they were expecting Apanui would be back in the province in the middle of next month to line up in Southland's premier club competition.

He is likely to play all of the second round for Woodlands to give himself a good shot at making the Southland team.

Rugby Southland have made no guarantees to Apanui about a potential Stags spot and his form in club rugby will dictate if he would be part of the squad.

At 34 Apanui is at his end of his career and some would suggest he would be a step backwards for Southland rugby if he was to end up in the 10 jersey.

However, at the moment the cupboard is fairly bare as far as first five-eighth options go, in particular with Scott Eade being viewed more as a halfback option.

Marty McKenzie played at first five-eighth in seven of the Stags' 11 national provincial championship games last season but has since transferred to Taranaki.

Calvary Fonoti was to be trialled in the No 10 jersey for Woodlands in the club season but suffered a serious knee injury in game one against Star and will miss the rest of the club season.

He could be back playing in time for the Stags campaign but he will be underdone as far as game time goes.

Pirates-Old Boys' teenager Jay Thompson-Te Muunu is another contender but he is sidelined with an ankle injury.

New recruit Jamie Verran, from Canterbury, has played at first five-eighth but is regarded more of a fullback option.

Josh Hall - who has played at first five-eighth for Counties - is normally a good club performer for Marist but there has never been much enthusiasm about him playing at the next level during his first two years trying to crack it in Southland.

Fairfax Media