Robbie Robinson may be unleashed on Stags

SO LONG SOUTHLAND: Robbie Robinson will play for Harbour in this year's national provincial championship competition.
SO LONG SOUTHLAND: Robbie Robinson will play for Harbour in this year's national provincial championship competition.

Robbie Robinson is zeroing in on an intriguing return to the rugby field against his old team on Thursday night.

The talented fullback has been sidelined since last November because of a hip injury, but is understood to be ready to take the field for North Harbour against Southland.

Robinson burst on to the New Zealand rugby scene in 2008 as a teenager playing for Southland and raked up 61 games for the Stags through to last year.

However, last month he opted to sign with North Harbour after getting the all clear from the surgeon to get back into rugby.

The former New Zealand secondary schools captain, New Zealand under-20 player and Maori All Black had originally hoped to be back playing in North Harbour's round one game against Otago in Dunedin on Saturday. It's now Thursday night against the Zero Fees-sponsored Stags where he is being lined up for his first game in nine months.

North Harbour coach Steve Jackson - a former Southland captain - said Robinson was a chance to play on Thursday night but did not confirm yesterday if in fact he would be part of the match day 22 when it is revealed this afternoon.

"At this stage he's ticking all the right boxes, but it's one of those injuries we can't force or rush. He'll let the medical staff know how he's feeling and if he's good to go, then we'll get him out on the paddock. We're not going to be silly with him but if he's ready to go then that is good for us," Jackson said.

Jackson said Robinson had already been a valuable addition to the North Harbour setup, before he even made his debut for the organisation.

"He's been outstanding for us. Obviously he's coming back from injury, but I think the things he has brought to the group off the field is as good as the stuff, I suppose, we'll get from him on the field. It's been a slow process to get him right to play rugby but he's going well."

Jackson is in his first season as head coach of North Harbour after he made the shift from Counties where he was an assistant to Tana Umaga.

"I'm really enjoying it. I think the transition has been good and the management team I've got around me, has made it quite easy and the players have made it quite easy for me. I'm really enjoying the head coaching job."

His reign at North Harbour didn't get off to the best off starts with the round one 28-14 loss to Otago in Dunedin.

"There were some things I was happy with but there were certainly some things I wasn't happy with. A lot of that was just based around the players effort and work rate off the ball. If we can fix those things in the next couple of days then hopefully we'll have a good game on Thursday night.

Jackson played the last of his 73 games for Southland in 2003 and while he is desperate for a victory on Thursday night, he admitted to still having a ‘soft spot' for Southland.

He felt Southland rugby had made big strides.

"I think over the past few years they've got themselves some good experience and brought a lot of players on, and with a good core of Super 15 players now I think they are going to be strong and it's good to see them in a good position on the field at the moment."

The Southland Times