Stags’ golden era remembered

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Members of the Southland Stags during a tickertape parade in Invercargill in 2011. Photo: Supplied

THIS weekend the Southland Stags Ranfurly Shield winning teams from 2009 and 2011 are reuniting to celebrate their epic achievements and a wonderful period of Southland rugby.

David Henderson, who was in the coaches’ box for both victories said about 60 people would attend a dinner on Saturday night including players, management and partners. Some were coming a long way.

King and Elliott Dixon from up the line, and Glen Horton from up north.

Jamie Mackintosh, who was captain of both sides, is playing and coaching in the United States.

The teams’ achievements 10 years ago will still be fresh in the minds of many. On a wet evening in October 2009, Southland upset rugby giants Canterbury 9-3 to capture the Shield for the first time in 50 years.

A committed Southland pack established dominance in the second half. The team’s manager Leicester Rutledge was in tears after the game, the Southland rugby legend reckoned he had failed in 20 Shield challenges as a player, coach or manager.

Henderson remembered the group being confident, relaxed and focused in the build-up.

Hard-core Stags fans had shared the confidence of their team in 2009 and had travelled north in support. They partied hard with the team.

2011 Southland Stags captain Jamie Mackintosh with the Ranfurly Shield. Photo: Supplied

The Stags players were welcomed home as heroes. A prolonged party was enjoyed, Invercargill bars overflowed, a street parade was held and a song was written which became world-famous in Southland.

Southland’s upset win injected life into the provincial game. The toppling of a rugby juggernaut and the celebrations it sparked surpassed anything any marketing team could have done for our national sport.

The team had the shield all summer and visited schools, hospitals, horse races, shows, and almost every event in the province while they prepared for the following season.

Southland’s six defences of the Shield in 2010 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 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 with a 22-19 win. This most recent tenure lasted two games.

These Southland sides were not headlined by regular All Blacks like the Southland teams from the 1930s and 1940s, instead they were made up mostly of locally grown talent, such as captain Jamie Mackintosh, centurions Jason Rutledge, David Hall, Josh Bekhuis, Tim Boys and future Scotland international John Hardie.

Robbie Robinson, James Wilson and Jason Kawau are other household names from this golden era.

Henderson said the group were meeting at the Speight’s Ale House on Friday night after a day golfing and fishing.

we’re looking forward to supporting the Stags against Manawatu. Rugby Southland has put us in a corporate box and then it is back to the Ale House.

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