Thursday, 10 September 2009

Tonight Southland finds itself in the unaccustomed position of being at the top of the Air New Zealand Cup table after six games. The last time that happened was in 1978.

So let’s hypothetically pit tonight’s Stags side against the Southland team of 1978, which defeated Australia 10-7, to see who’d win:

Glen Horton v Jeff Gardiner: The new boy Horton has to make way for the vociferous Gardiner, who might have been an All Black had he kept quiet and kicked the goals.

Matt Saunders v Garry Bennetts: Bennetts was quick but Saunders is an under-rated all round footballer. Saunders gets the nod.

Kenny Lynn v Wayne Boynton: Brains v Brawn. Lynn by the toss of a coin.

Jason Kawau v Steven Pokere: Kawau’s had an outstanding season but, sorry Jason, there’s no shame in losing out to arguably the most talented back (Jeff Wilson’s the other) Southland’s produced.

Tony Koonwaiyou v Ian Donaldson: We haven’t seen enough of Koonwaiyou and the versatile Donaldson came up trumps in the big games.

Robbie Robinson v Brian McKechnie: The Boy Wonder has the rugby world at his feet but he’s not a legend in the number 10 jersey yet. The Colt was.

Scott Cowan v Terry Butson: Cowan’s filling in for older brother Jimmy. Butson filled the gap between Dave Shanks and Chris Hiini. The impressive Mini-Me Cowan gets my vote.

David Hall v Ash McGregor: The never-say-die Hall has maroon flowing through his veins but he’s out of position and out of luck here. McGregor was unstoppable in prime at No.8.

Tim Boys v Sam Anderson: Anderson battled bravely in the shadow of some great loosies. Boys is turning into a great Southland flanker and gets the nod.

John Hardie v Leicester Rutledge: Young Hardie’s a beaut but Rutledge was the second-finest flanker (behind Ken Stewart) this proud province has produced.

Joe Tuineau v Fergus Dermody: Big Joe’s athleticism impresses but Gus is the go because every good Southland side needs a Dermody.

Josh Bekhuis v Bob Barber: While Barber was an All Black and jack of all trades he would struggle to hold his own at lineout time against a young man who might, one day, be an All Black.

Chris King v Phil Butt: King’s doing a sterling job but Scruffy prevails because he was a centurion and a legend.

Jason Rutledge v Dave Saunders: Two great work horses. I’m going with Rutledge because I don’t there’s a man more proud to wear the ‘S’ on the left breast.

Jamie Mackintosh v Kevin Duke: Whopper wins!

By my reckoning the 1978 team wins courtesy of having an 8-7 selection advantage. But hopefully the Stags of 2009 do better from here on in. In 1978 Southland won five of its first six games but lost the last four to finish eighth out of 11 in the NPC.

And here’s hoping 9/11 is a tragic day for the Bay!


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