BY LOGAN SAVORY
WHEN James Wilson confirmed he was returning to the Southland Stags this year, he quickly scanned the calendar.
The 35-year-old was looking for a certain fixture – Southland’s derby clash against Otago.
“As soon as I said I was coming back I targeted that game. I was disappointed to see last year’s [43-19] result [against Otago]. Hopefully we can put together a good performance, especially playing at home against Otago,” the 70-game Stags veteran said.
The Southland and Otago rugby rivalry dates back to 1887.
The two teams have played more games against each other than any other representative team in New Zealand.
The next showdown between the two teams will be on Saturday at 4.35pm at Rugby Park in Invercargill.
It will be the main event on a day when nine Southland-Otago fixtures across different age-groups will be played in Invercargill.
At stake in the main game is the Donald Stuart Memorial Trophy, which Otago holds.
The Stags need to find form quickly if they are to get one over their provincial neighbours.
Southland has lost its opening four games in the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup by 17 or more points.
The latest was a 43-26 loss to Counties Manukau after leading 14-nil early in the game.
“We’ve got to review [the Counties Manukau] game quite seriously because it is not a good thing to let in points like that in the middle of games. It’s killing us,” Wilson said.
“That’s the thing that’s getting to me – we do so well for short periods of time, but not over the whole game.
“That’s just upstairs, that’s mental stuff. We are forgetting our roles individually.”
Wilson spent six seasons playing overseas before returning to New Zealand this year to line up for Southland.
It is in the midfield where he made his mark overseas, but through injuries to Tayler Adams and Greg Dyer Wilson has started at first five-eighth in all four of the Stags’ 2018 Mitre 10 Cup games so far.
When asked what plans he had in place following the Mitre 10 Cup, Wilson said the focus at the moment was on Southland.