Rugby Southland

Last updated

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Union New Zealand Rugby Union
Nickname(s)The Southland Stags
Founded 1887;131 years ago (1887)
Location Invercargill, New Zealand
Region Highlanders
Ground(s) Rugby Park Stadium (Capacity: 20,000)
Coach(es) Dave Hewett
Captain(s) Brayden Mitchell
Most caps Jason Rutledge (138)
Top scorer Simon Culhane (976)
League(s) Mitre 10 Cup Championship
2016 6th
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Team kit
Official website

Rugby Southland is the provincial rugby union who govern the Southland Region of New Zealand. [1] Their headquarters are at Rugby Park Stadium in Invercargill, which is also the home ground of the union's professional team, the Southland Stags who compete in the Mitre 10 Cup Championship Division and challenge for the Ranfurly Shield. [2]

New Zealand Constitutional monarchy in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

Rugby Park Stadium

Rugby Park is a sports venue and home ground for the Mitre10 Cup and Southland. Rugby Park is located on the corner of Elles Road and Tweed Street in Invercargill. The ground has a regular season capacity of 18,000. It has a safe temporary seating maximum capacity of 20,000. An agreement with the Invercargill City Council saw surplus land on the ground used to build the city's new Swimming Complex. The pitch was moved geographically towards the main stand, squared off to Rugby field dimensions, with all weather seating installed. The Pitch itself was also weather proofed with a new high volume drainage system installed.

Invercargill Place in South Island, New Zealand

Invercargill is the southernmost and westernmost city in New Zealand, and one of the southernmost cities in the world. It is the commercial centre of the Southland region. The city lies in the heart of the wide expanse of the Southland Plains on the Oreti or New River some 18 km north of Bluff, which is the southernmost town in the South Island. It sits amid rich farmland that is bordered by large areas of conservation land and marine reserves, including Fiordland National Park covering the south-west corner of the South Island and the Catlins coastal region.


Despite their proud history, no Southland team has ever won the top division of the New Zealand National Provincial Championship since organised competition began in 1976. However, they have won the NPC second division title five times and held the Ranfurly Shield seven times, most recently in 2011 where they defended the shield twice before losing it to Taranaki. Southland also plays for the Donald Stuart Memorial Shield against rivals Otago in what is the longest tenured provincial rivalry in New Zealand first-class rugby, with 229 matches.

Taranaki Rugby Football Union

The Taranaki Rugby Football Union are a New Zealand governing body of rugby union in the New Zealand province of Taranaki. The main stadium is Yarrow Stadium which is located in New Plymouth. The union also represents the Taranaki Bulls, which is professional rugby union team who compete in the Mitre 10 Cup competition and contest for the Ranfurly Shield. Before 2006 the Bulls competed in the National Provincial Championship.


Formation and Early Years

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.

Otago Region of New Zealand in South Island

Otago is a region of New Zealand in the south of the South Island administered by the Otago Regional Council. It has an area of approximately 32,000 square kilometres (12,000 sq mi), making it the country's third largest local government region. Its population was 229,200 in June 2018.

Invercargill Rugby Club (Blues) is an amateur rugby team that plays in the Premier Division of Southland Club Rugby. Founded in 1874, the club has a prestigious history, and it boasts 31 Galbraith Shield titles including a record period of 8 in a row. Blues has had many All Blacks and NZ representatives including their most recent NZ under 20 representative Jay Renton. Other representatives in All Black Elliot Dixon, joined by Simon Culhane, David Henderson, Michael Fatialofa, Kendrick Lynn, James Wilson. Notable current players include Ray Tatafu, Jay Renton, Bill Fukufuku and Ben Soper along with young talents Mitch Taylor, Ethan De Groot, Kalani Elder and a raft of other young talents. Stalwarts of the club Daniel Townson, Micheal Peterson, Sam Winsloe and Pehi Te Phare provide experience to the Premier side. Blues also have a very strong Bs and CS side ensuring depth across the board. The Blues Bs side won the Division 2 competition in 2018 with an undefeated record. Blues last won the Galbraith Shield against Star winning 24 - 22.

Dunedin City in Otago, New Zealand

Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the principal city of the Otago region. Its name comes from Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.

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.

New Zealand national rugby union team mens rugby union team of New Zealand

The New Zealand national rugby union team, called the All Blacks, represents New Zealand in men's rugby union, which is known as the country's national sport. The team has won the last two Rugby World Cups, in 2011 and 2015 as well as the inaugural tournament in 1987.

The Queensland Rugby Union, or QRU, is the governing body for the sport of rugby union within the state of Queensland in Australia. It is a member and founding union of Rugby Australia.

Billy Stead New Zealand rugby player

Billy Stead, born John William Stead, was a rugby union player born in Invercargill who played for New Zealand, the All Blacks, on their 1905–06 tour. Stead also played provincially for Southland, and later coached various teams, including Southland and the New Zealand Māori. A bootmaker by trade, he also co-authored The Complete Rugby Footballer with Dave Gallaher, and was a columnist for the Southland Times, and New Zealand Truth.

Production of Talent

Southland is renowned for producing a high number of quality players despite the small population of the province shown by the over 50 All Blacks who have come from Southland. This continued following the war with players such as Leo Connolly and Jack Hazlett followed by Leicester Rutledge and Frank Oliver. But as rugby in New Zealand was organised into structured annual competition to replace tours and series which Southland had played in previously Southland Rugby struggled to retain their local talent. With Southland in the NPC Second Division from 1976, talented Southlanders began heading north in search of top level rugby. 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. 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.

Leicester Malcolm Rutledge is a former New Zealand rugby union player. A flanker, Rutledge represented Southland at a provincial level, and was a member of the New Zealand national side, the All Blacks, from 1978 to 1980. He played 31 matches for the All Blacks including 13 internationals, and captained the side in one match, against Combined Services on the 1978 tour of Britain and Ireland.

Francis James "Frank" Oliver was a New Zealand rugby union player and coach. He captained the New Zealand national side, the All Blacks, in four matches.

National Provincial Championship

The National Provincial Championship, or NPC, was the major domestic rugby competition in New Zealand. The NPC saw many alterations to its format and brand. Since 2006, it has been replaced by two competitions, the Mitre 10 Cup and the Heartland Championship. From the 2011 Season, the top Division was split into two tiers based on the 2010 Table after Pool Play. Teams 1–7 were assigned to the Premiership and teams 8–14 to the Championship. There is automatic Promotion/Relegation between the two tiers and also "crossover" matches, as well as full Round Robin Matches within each tier. The Heartland Championship is also split into two tiers after pool play with the top tier playing for the Meads Cup and bottom tier playing for the Lochore Cup. Currently all 26 of New Zealand's Provincial Unions participate in either the Mitre 10 Cup or Heartland Championship. The NPC was first contested in 1976, and although the basic format of Division One was much the same from then until the 2006 reorganisation, there were a number of changes to the lower divisions.

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.

Jeff Wilson (sportsman) New Zealand cricket and rugby union player

Jeffrey "Goldie" William Wilson is a New Zealand sportsman who has represented his country in both rugby union and cricket — a so-called "Double All Black", an increasingly rare achievement in the professional era. He is also a talented basketballer, and won national secondary school titles in track and field. With 44 tries in 60 tests, Wilson is ranked eleventh on the list of highest test try scorers in rugby. Wilson is married to Adine Wilson, former captain of the New Zealand netball team.

Justin Marshall New Zealand rugby union player

Justin Warren Marshall, MNZM is a New Zealand former rugby union player. He played 81 games for the New Zealand All Blacks between 1995 and 2005.

Rugby World Cup international rugby union competition

The Rugby World Cup is a men's rugby union tournament contested every four years between the top international teams. The tournament was first held in 1987, when the tournament was co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia.

Others who kickstarted their career in Southland before moving where they became All Blacks Norm Hewitt, Pita Alatini, David Hill and Paul Miller. All Blacks such as Anton Oliver, Damian McKenzie and Mils Muliaina (with the latter going on to become the second ever All Blacks centurion), who left the province for their schooling would not return with rugby's increasing professionalism to represent the province like their family had in the past.

Southland vs International Teams

For a province of its size, Southland's record against international teams is unmatched. Rugby Park has not been a happy hunting ground for foreign sides many of whom have come to grief at the hands of determined Southland sides over the years. Australian national and state sides have had a particularly miserable time in Invercargill, losing on 13 occasions. The British Lions were defeated in 1950 and 1966 and France were put away in 1979 and 1989 along with Italy more recently in 2003.

Ranfurly Shield

Southland were the first South Island province to win 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 although 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.

Their next Shield victory over Taranaki in 1959 would be their last for 51 years before the 2009 Southland side broke the drought by beating Canterbury 9-3 in Christchurch. [3] Their six defences of the Shield proved to be some of the more iconic Shield games in the professional era including a 16-12 victory over arch-rivals Otago in front of a sold-out Rugby Park, and a 9-6 victory over Auckland days after the biggest snow storm ever recorded in the province led to fans having to shovel snow off the field the day before the game. After losing the Shield to Canterbury, the Stags again claimed the shield from their South Island rivals in 2011 in their most recent tenure which lasted two games. These Southland sides were not headlined by regular All Blacks like the teams from the 1930s and 1940s, instead they were made up mostly of locally grown talent educated at Southland Boys' High School such as captain Jamie Mackintosh, centurions Jason Rutledge, David Hall, Josh Bekhuis and Tim Boys, and future Scotland international John Hardie.

Name change

In 1998 the Southland Rugby Football Union Incorporated changed its name to Rugby Southland Incorporated [4]

Club Rugby

When Robert Galbraith stepped down as the Southland Rugby Football Union secretary the union handed him a donation which the long-serving Southland rugby administrator promptly spent on a shield he donated back to the union as a prize for Invercargill's top club rugby competition. The Galbraith Shield has been the prize for Southland's premier club rugby competition since 1908. There are six teams currently in Southland's premier competition which was most recently won by the Marist club, in what was their sixth title. The other five clubs are Blues, Pirates-Old Boys, Star, Woodlands and the Eastern Northern Barbarians whose players come from the clubs in the Eastern/Northern sub union.

Current Senior Clubs:

1 Wakatipu play in the Otago Country competition, however due to lack of suitable competition their B team play in the Southlandwide competition as the Wakatipu Wanderers. Wakatipu High School also compete in Southland competition as it involves less travel than the corresponding Otago competition.

2 Wrights Bush do not currently have their own senior team, instead playing as Bush Pirates in a combined venture with Central Pirates.

High Schools:

Southland Stags

Rugby Southland control all representative teams within the province, the Southland Stags whom compete in New Zealand's national provincial championship, known as the Mitre 10 Cup are the top men's team. This semi-professional side is coached by former Southland and Maori All Blacks player Hoani MacDonald and captained by hooker Brayden Mitchell. Southland teams traditionally wear maroon jerseys with a gold and/or white trim, with white shorts and maroon socks. The jerseys are currently manufactured by BLK Sport and the major sponsor is Southern Institute of Technology.

Current Squad

Southland initially named a squad of 26 for the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup. [5] [6] Former All Blacks Sevens player Isaac Te Tamaki was added to the original squad of 26 to bolster the outside backs. [7] 2017 Captain Brayden Mitchell was then ruled out for the season with a neck injury on August 13 and was replaced in the squad by Queensland Reds hooker Andrew Ready. Flynn Thomas and James Wilson were named co-captains in his absence. [8] Lock Ben Fotheringham was offered a contract after strong preseason performances. [9] Broc Hooper was the last preseason addition to the squad on loan from Counties Manukau, following long-term injuries to both Tayler Adams and Greg Dyer. [10]

Loosehead prop Ethan de Groot came into the squad as injury cover after Joe Walsh was sidelined with a shoulder injury. [11] Hooker Jesse MacDonald was added to the squad as a loan player from Tasman. [12] Presley Tufaga and Pasilio Tosi featured late in the season following injuries to Jack Capil, Phil Halder and Wade McRae.

The squad used in the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup season was:

Southland squad




Loose forwards

Halfbacks (Scrum-halves)

First Five-Eighths (Fly-halves)

Midfielders (Centres)

Outside Backs

(cc) Denotes co-captain, Bold denotes player is internationally capped

Current Internationally Capped Players

Southland in Super Rugby

Southland are one of three home unions to make up the Highlanders Super Rugby team, the other two unions being Otago and North Otago. There is currently an agreement in place for the Highlanders to play one regular season game per year at Rugby Park Stadium. Despite their interests in the Highlanders, Southland players are free to play for whichever Super team contracts them, with those who aren't contracted often representing the Highlanders development team known as the Bravehearts. This has seen players such as former player Wharenui Hawera represent the ACT Brumbies. The players from the 2018 Stags squad with Super Rugby experience are:

1 Matthew Johnson was signed by the Blues for the 2018 season, but was unable to take the field due to heart surgery. [13]



Southland's Captains since 1976 are:


Southland's Coaches Since 1976 are:

Rugby Southland centurions

The following players have played over a hundred games for the Southland senior team. [15] 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

There have been 57 players selected for the All Blacks whilst playing their club rugby in Southland. The first being Nisbet McRobie in 1896 and the most recent Lima Sopoaga in 2017.

Other notable players

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Jimmy Cowan New Zealand rugby union player

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