Stags coach ready for kick-off

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Southland Stags coach Dave Hewett is counting down the days until the Stags' first 2018 Mitre 10 Cup game against Hawke's Bay at Rugby Park in Invercargill on August 19.

FORMER All Black Dave Hewett is a matter of weeks away from arguably his biggest coaching test to date. LOGAN SAVORY caught up with the new Stags coach to check in on the preparations.

RIDE in the jersey is what Dave Hewett wants out of year one in charge of the Southland Stags.

The former All Black prop is inching closer to his first season at the helm of the Stags after he was revealed in December as Southland’s new coach.

The Stags had a horror 2017 campaign where they went winless through their 10 Mitre 10 Cup games.

Hewett said the focus centred on bringing pride back into the jersey this year.

However he suggested that shouldn’t be measured by just how many wins the Stags pick up this season.

Hewett said the Stags rebuild may take time and for the moment it was about showing the Southland public improvement and also performances that they could be proud of.

Physicality was one of the many areas where pride could be installed, Hewett said.

“Pride in performance is partly around physicality, how you play the game. Particularly in Southland.

“I can remember playing for Canterbury and being on the receiving end of performances down here where we won but we knew we had been in a real battle.

“So that’s part of bringing pride back into the jersey again,” Hewett said.

“At the end of the season we want to have performances we can be happy with, pick up a couple of wins, and show people we have developed.

“Then next year we’ll be better players for it.”

Hewett and the Stags are close to five weeks out from their competition opener against Hawke’s Bay in Invercargill on August 19.

The focus over the next two weeks would be on the premier club rugby semifinals and finals before the whole Stags squad assemble together on July 21.

They will play preseason games against North Otago, Otago, and Northland.

The 2018 Stags squad was largely sorted with just a few contract spots to be filled, Hewett said.

At this point of the build-up, Hewett said it had been mixed for various reasons.

He paid tribute to the work assistants Jason Kawau and Dale McLeod had done to date.

“I’d like to think in some areas we are little bit ahead, in other areas we are probably not quite where we need to be because of other circumstances.

“Part of that is because of my [New Zealand] under-20s [coaching] involvement, part of that is the late appointment of my position and other positions.

“However that is no excuse. We are pretty comfortable with where we are at, and there’s a lot of work to go in over the next few weeks.

“That’s why these preseason games are so important.”

Hewett previously held assistant coaching roles with both Canterbury and the Crusaders.

Twice he was overlooked for the Canterbury head coaching job before it was Southland where was provided an opportunity in the top job at Mitre 10 Cup level.

He has had a short stint as head coach of the United States.

Hewett acknowledged the Southland job would be a challenging one and more actual coaching would be needed than when he was with an organisation like the Crusaders.

“There is more coaching to be done [in Southland]. I’m not saying I have all the answers, but what I’m saying is I’m going to give it my best shot.”

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