Southland Rugby Football Union

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Southland Stags
Full name Southland Rugby Football Union
Union NZRU
Nickname(s) Stags
Founded 1887; 130 years ago (1887)
Ground(s) Rugby Park Stadium (Capacity: 20,000)
Chairman New Zealand Alex Derbie

New Zealand Hoani MacDonald

New Zealand Jason Kawau
Captain(s) New Zealand Jamie Mackintosh
Most caps Jason Rutledge (130)
Top scorer Simon Culhane (976)
Most tries Bruce Pascoe (46)
League(s) ITM Cup Championship
2015 6th
Official website

Rugby Southland is the provincial rugby union who govern the Southland Region of New Zealand.[1] Rugby Southland is headquartered in Rugby Park Stadium, the home ground of the Southland Stags. Rugby Southland is renowned for producing quality players despite the small population of the province.

The union's home ground Rugby Park Stadium, formerly known as Homestead Stadium, is the home of Rugby Southland and the Southland Stags.[2] The Stags and most other Southland representative rugby union teams wear a maroon playing jersey, white shorts and maroon socks.[3] However, some Southland representative team jerseys also feature a blue hoop similar to that worn by the senior team in the early 2000s. The playing kit is produced by New Zealand company Canterbury of New Zealand.


1887–1920: Establishment and early 1900s[edit]

Founded in 1887 after splitting from Otago, Southland and its former stablemate went on to forge what is New Zealand’s longest inter-provincial rugby rivalries. The two sides have played more games against each other than any other representative teams in New Zealand. They played their first game against Otago, losing in a close affair. The Southland region already had strong club rugby teams with Invercargill competing in the Dunedin based competition. The Invercargill club had already produced two All Blacks. They were outside back, Henry Braddon and wing forward, James O'Donnell. In 1885 these two players were recognised as Otago All Blacks as they played their rugby for neighbouring province.

It was not until 1896 when Southland hooker, Nisbet McRobie was selected in the New Zealand team to play Queensland. The side won 9-nil and it was McRobie's only game in the 'black jersey', however he occupies a special place in Southland Rugby history as the provinces first of over 50 All Blacks. Billy Stead became the provinces first test All Black in 1903 and also captained the All Blacks 12 times.

1920–47: First Ranfurly Shield tenure[edit]

Described as Southland Rugby's heyday, Southland first won the coveted Ranfurly Shield in 1920 when they beat Wellington. Their first shield reign was brief, losing the Shield back to Wellington in 1921 after two defences. They next won the Shield in 1929 off Wairarapa, this time defending it four times before again losing to Wellington. Southland then won the Ranfurly Shield in 1937 and 1938 when they retained the Shield for 12 challenges before losing it to bitter rivals Otago in 1947. With Ranfurly Shield rugby not played from 1939 to 1945 due to World War II, Southland's nine years with the Shield remains the longest in terms of time period all though it did reside under a bed for much of this time.

The Southland side during this period boasted All Blacks George Purdue, Bill Hazlett, Art Wesney, Les George and All Black Captains Frank Kilby and Brushy Mitchell in the Shield winning sides.

1947–76: Post war years[edit]

Rugby Southland continued to produce quality players following the war including All Blacks Leo Connolly and Jack Hazlett the latter playing a role in Southland's last Shield triumph of the century in 1959. Les George had gone on to become the most pivotal figure in Southland Rugby as executive, president, selector and coach at various times from 1949-75.

1976–2004: Talent exodus[edit]

With Southland in the NPC Second Division from 1976, talented Southlanders began heading north in search of top level rugby. Whilst Southland continued to produce homegrown talent over 1980s and 1990s which led them to five Second Division titles, namely Brian McKechnie, Steven Pokere, Geoff Valli, Paul Henderson and Simon Culhane who was the shining light for Southland over this period, it was the talent that was lost that continues to haunt Southland fans as they think what may have been if this talent could have been retained. Southland at this time was used as a kickstart for many successful players careers. Valli moved to North Auckland in 1981, Pokere left Southland for Auckland in 1984 and Henderson spent what most consider to be his best years as a footballer in Otago from 1987-91. This worsened as Southland neared the millennium and led to embarrassing results where victories were few and far between as Southland was promoted to the NPC First Division after their 1996 championship.

Considered one of Southland's best ever athletes, it pains many Southland fans to think that Jeff Wilson played only a season for Southland whilst still attending Cargill High School before heading to Otago to attend university and play his provincial rugby and cricket both of which he would represent New Zealand in before turning 20, going on to play 60 tests for the All Blacks. Justin Marshall who was Southland's halfback left after the winning the 1994 Second Division title and went on to become one of New Zealand's greatest halfbacks playing 81 All Black tests from 1995-2005 and winning every major trophy in New Zealand rugby excluding a Rugby World Cup. 2002 Southland captain Corey Flynn left the province for Canterbury and the Crusaders in 2003 and went on to play 70 games for Canterbury, 150 for the Crusaders and 15 for the All Blacks which would have been far greater if not for multiple broken arms from 2003-2014.

Others who kickstarted their career in Southland before moving where they became All Blacks Norm Hewitt, Pita Alatini, David Hill and Paul Miller whilst All Black legends Mils Muliaina and Anton Oliver were raised in Southland before leaving on high school scholarships.

2004–09: Return to success[edit]

Southland Rugby received a boost when Jimmy Cowan turned down a lucrative contract to play for Canterbury and the Crusaders in 2005 which would have cemented himself as the successor for Marshall as the All Black halfback with the opportunity to combine with Daniel Carter in his provincial rugby. Cowan had proved that it was still possible to make the All Blacks from Southland with his selection in the 2004 end of year tour which ultimately led to young talent opting to stay at home and ply their trade for the Stags side. Southland captain Clarke Dermody was rewarded with an All Black jersey for his good form in 2006 and along with Cowan, Samoan international Kane Thompson, Tongan international Hale T-Pole and homegrown heroes David Hall and Jason Rutledge the results on the field began to improve reaching the quarter finals in the revamped NPC now called the Air New Zealand Cup in 2006 coached by Southland legends Culhane and David Henderson.

2007 saw the continued improvement of the Southland side with five wins in a row after a slow start to the competition including defeating Otago for the first time at their home ground Carisbrook since 1977. The Stags reached the quarterfinal stage once again but were defeated by Wellington. Following the season saw the departure of internationals T-Pole, Thompson, Dermody and whilst he had not left the province it also marked the end of Cowan's regular play for Southland as he became the regular All Black test halfback in 2008. Local hero Jamie Mackintosh replaced Dermody as captain and other young local talents Josh Bekhuis, Robbie Robinson and John Hardie had become key parts in the side which had restored pride in the region taken away the years spent in rugby wilderness at the dawn of the professional era shown by their crowd average of 7,500. Highlights of the 2008 season saw Southland narrowly lose the Air New Zealand Cup semi final to Wellington as well as a heartbreaking defeat to Auckland in a Ranfurly Shield challenge, however Southland did not have to wait long for their taste of success retaining the nucleus of the 2008 side.

Southland's 2009 Air New Zealand Cup is their best since the introduction of structured a provincial rugby competition in 1976 seeing a number of milestones. The Stags beat Waikato for the first time since 2003 and beat Otago at Carisbrook for the second time in a row at Carisbrook in the teams' 232nd meeting, the most between provinces in New Zealand rugby history. They defeated North Harbour for the first time away from home. Heading into the last round needing a victory in what subsequently has been labelled as one of the greatest weeks in Southland Rugby. On Thursday 22 October 2009 the Stags challenged Canterbury at AMI Stadium in Christchurch for the Ranfurly Shield. In front of the crowd of 10,500 of which a large portion were travelling Stags fans Robbie Robinson kicked three penalty goals to compliment a sound defensive display that was enough to win the Log of wood and secure a spot in the semi-finals. The week the Stags were treated to a massive street parade around Invercargill. Nearly 20,000 fans turned up completing a great week which saw Southland win the Log of wood for the first time since 1959.[4] Southland were knocked out of the Air New Zealand Cup the following week in the semifinal against Wellington, losing 34-21.

2010–14: Ranfurly Shield reign and financial crisis[edit]

Southland were able to defend the Ranfurly Shield seven times, creating somewhat of a fortress of their home ground Rugby Park. Highlights were a 16-12 defeat of archrivals Otago thanks to a Mackintosh try and accurate goal kicking from James Wilson in front of 18,000 fans and a 9-6 victory over Auckland after the biggest snow storm to hit Southland in living memory gutted the provinces agricultural industry and caused the multimillion-dollar Stadium Southland complex to collapse, rugby providing a huge boost for the locals. They eventually lost the Shield to Canterbury which was the beginning of a fall from grace for the Rugby Union. After the season it was discovered that due to poor management of funds, Rugby Southland faced bankruptcy. The Union had budgeted for a sell out crowd every game and spent money it did not have. Local paper the Southland Times blamed players such as Cowan and Mackintosh for accepting huge contracts despite the fact they already were the highest paid Highlanders, this led to a fallout between Southland's players and media.

Recapturing the Shield briefly off Canterbury in 2011 provided a much needed boost for the players and fans as Jimmy Cowan was a member of the All Blacks winning 2011 Rugby World Cup squad. By the end of 2011 the Stags had been relegated to the second tier of the ITM Cup competition and few members of the Ranfurly Shield side remained as they dropped in performance and players began to be scouted and signed by other provinces leading to a smaller scale exodus of local talent than the 1990s. Former New Zealand Under 20 Representatives Brayden Mitchell, Marty McKenzie, Robbie Robinson and Nick Barrett all left the province in the coming years which resulted in the union to increasing their club player scouting throughout New Zealand. The move down south would allow many talented club players a better chance to break into the ITM Cup. In 2013 there was a large selection of Auckland and Canterbury club rugby players that transferred to premier clubs in Invercargill and the surrounding districts. The following year in 2014 saw club rugby players following in the paths of the previous years players particularly Willis Halaholo and Cardiff Vaega who used their time in Southland to gain Super Rugby Contracts and new coach Brad Mooar who replaced Henderson brought players such as former New Zealand sevens representative Mark Jackman from Canterbury into the setup.

2014 saw Southland improve from previous years led by signing coup Lima Sopoaga who played a pivotal role at first five. The side provided solid performances including yet another Ranfurly Shield heartbreak, with a last minute drop goal securing a draw for the current holders Hawkes Bay.

Club rugby[edit]

Current squad[edit]

The squad for the 2016 Mitre 10 Cup has been named as follows.[5][6]




Loose Forwards


First Fives


Outside Backs

(c) Denotes team captain, Bold denotes player is internationally capped, Injury icon 2.svg denotes a player is currently injured and Substituted in Denotes player is injury cover

2016 signings[edit]

2016 losses[edit]

2016 Super Rugby representatives[edit]

Southland are one of three home unions to make up the Highlanders Super Rugby team, the other two unions being Otago and North Otago. Since the altering of rules which allowed Highlanders players to be selected outside the home provinces, Southland has seen its number of Super Rugby representatives drop and also seen players leave the region as a result. There are five players from the 2015 ITM Squad currently contracted for the 2016 Super Rugby Season are in the table below.

Player Super Rugby Team
Josh Bekhuis Blues
Tim Boys Crusaders
Elliot Dixon Highlanders
Guy Millar Western Force
Lima Sopoaga Highlanders

Scott Eade, Dillan Halaholo,[7] Liam Howley[8] and Junior Ngaluafe have all spent time with the Highlanders over the past season, while Jamie Mackintosh and Willis Halaholo are former Super Rugby representatives who are not yet contracted for 2016.

Notable Southland representatives[edit]


Southland's Captains since 1976 are:


Southland's Coaches Since 1976 are:

  • Bob Donnelly 1976
  • Jack Smith 1977-79
  • Robin Archer 1980-82
  • Jack Borland, Harold Miller & Kevin Laidlaw 1983
  • Laidlaw 1984-85
  • John McAlley 1986-87
  • Barry Leonard 1988-92
  • Kevin Robertson 1993-97
  • Robert Telfer 1998-99
  • Leicester Rutledge 2000-01
  • Phil Young 2002-04
  • Simon Culhane & David Henderson 2005-11
  • Henderson 2012-13
  • Brad Mooar 2014-15
  • Hoani MacDonald 2016–present

Rugby Southland centurions[edit]

The following players have played over a hundred games for the Southland senior team.[9] Listed in chronological order from Ack Soper in 1966 to most recently Tim Boys in 2014 the 15 are:

* denotes player has not yet retired

All Blacks[edit]

Southland has produced 51 All Blacks who are listed below:

International age group representatives[edit]

The following is a list of Southland players who have represented their country at the Junior World Championships whilst contracted by Southland:

Other notable players[edit]



  1. ^ "Hospitality". Rugby Southland. Retrieved 2016-06-18. 
  2. ^ "Rugby Park Stadium, Invercargill - Eventfinda". Retrieved 2016-06-18. 
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ Burdon, Nathan (2009-10-23). "Southland Stags make Ranfurly Shield history". Retrieved 2016-06-18. 
  5. ^ "Meet the 2016 Southland Stags squad for the 2016 national provincial season". Rugby Heaven. 15 July 2016. Retrieved 15 July 2016. 
  6. ^ "Rookie Stags coach Hoani Macdonald has made the tough call to not select Jamie Mackintosh for the 2016 season". Rugby Heaven. 15 July 2016. Retrieved 15 July 2016. 
  7. ^ "Highlanders call up Southland hooker Dillan Halaholo for South African trip". 2015-05-04. Retrieved 2016-06-18. 
  8. ^ "From Highlanders to club rugby for Southland teenager". 2015-05-20. Retrieved 2016-06-18. 
  9. ^ "History". Rugby Southland. Retrieved 2016-06-18. 
  10. ^ "Ranfurly Shield History | | Official home of the Investec Super Rugby competition". 2014-07-01. Retrieved 2016-06-18. 

External links[edit]