Don't panic - keep the faith
Stags coach Brad Mooar is urging everyone to not reach for the panic button after his team suffered a shock loss to heartland team Mid Canterbury in Oamaru on Saturday.
It was Southland's first preseason hitout leading into the start of the national provincial championship campaign in a fortnight.
Despite predictions of a high-scoring win to Southland, it was a delighted Mid Canterbury who walked away with the scalp of a top-tier team.
"They were well drilled, and they've had a shield challenge, so good on them. They went away pretty happy and we come away with plenty of stuff to work on," Mooar said.
Mid Canterbury won the game 40-38 after trailing 24-5 in the first half.
The 2014 Heartland Championship champions scored 29 unanswered points to go from 24-5 down to lead 34-24.
Southland did come back to lead 38-37 before Mid Canterbury kicked a late penalty to grab an upset win.
Mooar conceded leaking 40 points against a Heartland team was a concern but he was not getting too worked up about the result.
"It's not ideal, but looking at the performance was more important than the score and it showed we have plenty to work on - it made things pretty clear there. We will learn plenty from it," he said.
"The result is important for the supporters and the province but when we are looking at it, we look at how those points were scored and what led to it. There is certainly no need to panic, and there a lot of things we done well. So you've just got to keep the faith and not throw the baby out with the bath water."
Despite the disappointment of losing, Mooar said there were areas of encouragement from the game in Oamaru.
"We showed some good stuff on a couple of counter-attacks. I thought Junior Ngaluafe went really good at the back. I thought there was some nice glimpses on attack, and we showed some good composure on some exits. So some things are ticking away and we'll keep working on the whole game. We are still well underdone and it's just building blocks really."
Southland were missing six Super Rugby players - Jamie Mackintosh, Josh Bekhuis, John Hardie, Elliot Dixon, Lima Sopoaga and Cardiff Vaega. Their return to the Stags setup this week will be a welcome one.
Those six players' importance to this team was highlighted on Saturday, although there still should have been enough fire power available to topple Mid Canterbury.
Southland will train in Invercargill today before spending two days in Colac Bay on Tuesday and Thursday, and on Friday will play their final pre-season game against Otago in Alexandra.
The first competition game will be against Bay of Plenty in Invercargill on Friday, August 15.
- The Southland Times