Thursday, 9 October 2008

Jamie's Weekly Sports Thought

At the time of writing I have absolutely no idea of the make up of the Southland Stags side to take on the Bay of Plenty Steamers in tomorrow night’s sudden death quarter-final in the Air New Zealand Cup.

By the time you read this however, David Henderson and Simon Culhane will have made public their favoured fifteen. It naturally follows, therefore, it could be deemed an exercise in futility offering the two wise men some free counsel, but what the heck, it’s never stopped me before!

The law of averages surely suggests the Stags are due for a big one. All season, if you exclude three 40-minute spells against Wellington, Counties Manakau and North Harbour respectively, plus the final 20 minutes against Bay of Plenty, there’s been plenty of frustrations.

Unlike some Southland teams of the past, this lot has the talent to win big games. Problem is, they just haven’t clicked yet and they haven’t won the big games.

They blew the best chance in 49 years to win the Ranfurly Shield and had to watch as the netballers showed them how to win a national title. The Otago game was criminally lost at the death, Wellington withstood a 40 minute onslaught that should have reaped more reward and, let’s be honest, we were never in the hunt against Canterbury.

But all is not lost. Indeed the rugby gods have been kind with the quarter-final draw. Qualifying fifth, we could not have got a better away game than Bay of Plenty. We’ve just got to get the best fifteen on the paddock.

One of Southland’s biggest problems is a lack of pace out wide. That’s why I’d put the two fastest blokes on the wings. Kendrick Lynn has genuine gas and the next quickest for mine, appears to be super-talented Robbie Robinson. Give him a roving commission and watch the boy-wonder go.

I’d leave Mark Wells at fullback – he catches and kicks well – and I’d persist with Blair Stewart because his goalkicking, if nothing else, will win tight games.

I’d also take the field at Bob the Builder’s Park with three big lineout men and persevere with Hoani McDonald at No.8. He’s a great athlete and I also reckon Daniel Ramsay is the goods at lock, even though that’s not always readily evident.

There can be no doubting Jason Rutledge’s selection at hooker. He’s been a revelation and will push Tim Boys hard for the player of the year title. His fire is a fine example of a big heart making up for a small hearth.

So here’s my team to take the Steamers to the dry cleaners!

Wells, Lynn, Saunders, Kawau, Robinson, Stewart, Jimmy Cowan, McDonald, Boys, Bates, Bekhuis, Ramsay, King, Rutledge and Mackintosh.

Death or glory awaits.


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