Southland prepare for Harbour to fight back

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 20/09/2012
Elliot Dixon
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
HARBOUR FIGHT BACK: Southland's Elliot Dixon in action against Hawke's Bay.

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The Stags are wary of a Harbour backlash when the two teams meet on the North Shore on Saturday.

Harbour have been - not to put too fine a point on it - simply awful this season, losing all six of their games, including a 54-25 shellacking by Otago on Tuesday night.

Southland No 8 Elliot Dixon said the Stags, who were in danger of a similar record before a confidence-boosting win over Hawke's Bay on Sunday, could not afford to take their opposition lightly.

"Hopefully we can build on this one win and go up to Harbour and have a good game," Dixon said.

"They will be ruing [Tuesday] night and last year's Ranfurly Shield game, losing in the last minute to a Scott Cowan try. We've talked about that, they'll be hard to beat at home."

Dixon, who has played 21 games for Southland, said the Stags were aware of a Harbour backline which includes the likes of Frances Saili and Rudi Wulf, but the team had been buoyed by its last outing.

"It's got the monkey off our back," Dixon said.

"We always knew we were there or there abouts, it was just a couple of clinical errors and a few injuries. It's good to have a bit of confidence coming into this week."

For Dixon, just being out on the paddock has been a plus following surgery after he tore a pectoral muscle off the bone where it meets the shoulder during the Highlanders' tour of South Africa. He made his return against Tasman and then played a full game against the Magpies on Sunday.

"I'm loving it.

"I've been off rugby for about five months now so I'm happy to be back. I played my first 80 against Hawke's Bay and the lungs were a bit tired, but I'm building every week and getting stronger hopefully."

Dixon is in negotiations with the Highlanders after two years as a bit-part player under Jamie Joseph, and needs to prove he has recovered from surgery.

"Hopefully, I can get back there for the next couple of years. The pec feels good but I just want to focus on game time and doing the little things right, tackling and clean outs and that sort of stuff."

Meanwhile, Paralympians Phil and Laura Thompson's medal success in London will be celebrated at the halftime break in Southland's final home, against Manawatu on October 12.

The tandem pair, who won gold, silver and bronze across the track and road, will be joined by Kylie Young, who was unable to ride in London after her team-mate Jayne Parsons was ruled out with a back injury.

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Olympic cyclist Eddie Dawkins and Natasha Hansen, and swimmer Natalie Wiegersma will also be part of the ceremony which is being billed as a "salute to our heroes".

The six athletes will also be the hosted at the game by Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt and deputy Darren Ludlow.

- The Southland Times

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