Stags squad back in training

    Southland Stags player Solomon Alaimalo is caught by the defence during the round two Bunnings NPC match between Southland and Bay of Plenty at Rugby Park Stadium, Invercargill, on August 15. Photo: Joe Allison/Getty Images

    RUGBY is back but it is likely to be a while before the Southland Stags are in action.

    With most of the country moving to Covid-19 Alert Level 2 on Tuesday, New Zealand Rugby announced domestic competitions would recommence from September 17.

    The NPC, Farah Palmer Cup and Heartland Championship, outside of Auckland, would start again from next Friday.

    At Alert Level 2, teams at all levels of rugby could safely return to training from yesterday but New Zealand Rugby (NZR) stipulated matches would not resume until September 17, to ensure players had sufficient time to safely prepare for a return to play.

    With Auckland in Alert Level 4, the teams from Auckland, North Harbour and Counties Manukau were unable to play at this stage.

    In the original draw, Southland was due to play Auckland in the city of sails on September 17 but this is extremely unlikely to happen.

    A reworked draw, which may include midweek games, is set to be released by NZR in the next few days.

    Southland Stags coach Dale McLeod said he hoped to get it as soon as possible to see where things stood.

    It was likely the competition would start again from round seven of the original draw on September 17 and then go through to round 10.

    Then it would move to play games which had not been able to be played because of the lockdown.

    For Southland, it would play Canterbury, Tasman and Manawatu from the original draw and would then still have to play Auckland, North Harbour, Counties-Manukau, Northland and Taranaki. Home games are against Counties-Manukau, Northland, Canterbury and Manawatu.

    McLeod said the draw may have to be compromised with teams having to play midweek games.

    “It does make it tough. We can hopefully have a draw by the end of the week. But what we have been told is we may not be playing until September 24 at the earliest,” he said.

    “For someone like Otago it is going to be worse. They might not be playing until October 2 as their first two games are against Counties and then North Harbour, which are probably not going to be played.

    “Perhaps we just need to share the points against those teams [Auckland, North Harbour and Counties-Manukau], get two points each, and move on.”

    Teams may end up having to play three games over 10 days and McLeod said this was tough.

    “We have guys who are workers, have other jobs. We can not afford to have them away from those jobs for too long.”

    Southland was set to get together for a light training yesterday. Players had been training individually but contact and training as a team was needed.

    Lock Caleb Aperahema (chest) and winger Jamie Spowart (concussion) are out for the season but the rest of the squad was available.

    Representative age grade sides are expected to play some games in late September and into next month.