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Southland desperate to revive fortunes in 2018

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Sunday, July 29, 2018    allblacks.com    Getty Images

First off, former All Blacks prop and Crusaders' assistant coach Dave Hewett has been appointed coach of the side and has already signalled that putting some pride back in performance will be one of the goals for the team. He is assisted by Jason Kawau and Dale McLeod.

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Hooker and captain Brayden Mitchell will build on the 45 caps he already has for Southland, added to the 17 games he played for Waikato, 12 games for the Highlanders and 11 for the Hurricanes.

He will have experience around him with Morgan Mitchell having played 32 times for the side and Joe Walsh 19 times while Shaun Stodart with 12 games will feature in his third season. Reuben Northover on the loosehead has also had eight games for the side but missed last year. Adding some depth is former Northland prop Chris Apoua.

Another player looking for plenty of game time will be New Zealand Under-20s prop in France earlier this year Flynn Thomas. Only 20, he already has 10 caps.

Bill Fukofuka carries a big load as the most experienced of the locks with 38 games for Southland. His Blues clubmate Ray Tatafu, who had a call-up to the Highlanders Bravehearts this year, will join him in the middle row along with Manaaki Selby-Rickit and Jack Capil with Brenton Howden rounding out the options.

A significant gain in the loose forward department for the side is former Hawke's Bay flanker Tony Lamborn. He played 39 times for the Bay and four times for the Hurricanes in Super Rugby before playing in the United States where he made 16 Test appearances.

Working with him will be Phil Halder, who has 19 games for the side and who had time with the Highlanders during their pre-season build-up to the Super Rugby season. Wade McRae will also be a contender for a loose forward berth.
Competition at halfback and first five-eighths looks likely with New Zealand Under-20s halfback Jay Renton included again while Nico Costa has been selected once again. Tayler Adams, who last played for Southland in 2014, has returned after time in Australian rugby where he played in their national championship and appeared in two games for the Rebels this year. He can play either halfback or first five-eighths.

Also returning to the side for the first time since 2011 and after a stellar season with Bath is James Wilson, a 65-cap veteran. He first played for Southland in 2003, the same year in which he made his debut in Super Rugby for the Brumbies for whom he played eight games. He had 18 appearances for the Highlanders in 2007-08 and one game for the Chiefs in 2009.

An international tourist he started an overseas career in France, playing 17 times for Bourgoin before starting a six-season, 95-game stint with Northampton Saints, which included a Premiership title and European Challenge Cup win in 2014 before being called on by Bath coach Todd Blackadder for 13 games this year.

Also in the mix for first five-eighths will be Greg Dyer.

Midfielder Matt Johnson played every game last season and won a berth with the Blues for Super Rugby but health issues, including open heart surgery, prevented him from playing.

Canterbury recruit Ray Nu'u will strengthen the southern backline while also providing experience will be former Taranaki utility backs Lewis and Jackson Ormond. Sosi Tuimavave spent the off season with Calvisano in Italy after missing much of last year with a pectoral injury. Rounding out the backline will be Aleki Lewis.

Division: Championship
Last year: Last

Southland 2018 squad:

Bill Fukofuka, Brayden Mitchell, Brenton Howden, Chris Apoua, Flynn Thomas, Jack Capil, Joe Walsh, Manaaki Selby, Morgan Mitchell, Phil Halder, Ray Tatafu, Reuben Northover, Shaun Stodart, Tony Lamborn, Wade McCrae, Aleki Morris, Greg Dyer, Jackson Ormond, James Wilson, Jay Renton, Lewis Ormond, Matt Johnson, Nico Costa, Ray Nu'u, Tauasosi Tuimavave, Tayler Adams