Southland rugby has always relied heavily on family connections - think the Dermodys, Hendersons and Rutledges among many others - and now a host of brothers could potentially pull on the maroon jersey in 2018.
It’s already been announced that hooker Brayden Mitchell will line up alongside little brother Morgan in the front row for the Stags during this year’s Mitre 10 Cup, but Rugby Southland has confirmed that fullback Lewis Ormond will be back for a second campaign and has brought his brother Jackson with him.
It’s an exciting time for Jackson Ormond, who has delayed his arrival in Southland while he awaits the arrival of his second child.
The 27-year-old has played 56 games for Taranaki since 2011, mostly as a winger, along with appearances at centre and fullback.
“Lewis has re-signed and Jackson has decided to play rugby with his brother. They both want to push for higher honours. Southland gets the same amount of TV time as Taranaki does, so it gives them a chance to show their wares.”
Jackson has also been a member of the Hurricanes wider training squad and played three tournaments for the New Zealand sevens team.
“It’s certainly taking me out of my comfort zone,” he said.
“I think it will be good. It’s a fresh start and a chance to play with my brother, which is something I enjoy. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m hoping for a bit more game time, put my best foot forward and play some good rugby. I’ve still got ambitions to go higher, and I feel like this is the fresh start to do that.”
Younger brother and 2016 Olympic sevens representative Lewis said he had some unfinished business after a winless season with the Stags in 2017.
“We didn’t have a good season last year and I didn’t want to leave on a bad note. I’ve come back to try and improve our status.”
New Southland head coach Dave Hewett has also signed Auckland Mitre 10 Cup and sevens player Nico Costa, with the Argentinian-born halfback bringing his older brothers Ignacio and Rodrigo south to play alongside him at club level.
“Nico has come down as a nine, and while his brothers aren’t on contract, they want to give it a go,” Hewett said.
Hewett reconfirmed his commitment to having contracted players contributing to Southland rugby at club level.
“We want as many Stags players as possible to come from club rugby in Southland. That will obviously mean local boys and also people who have come down here to play club rugby.
“There will be some guys who don’t play club rugby because there will be positions that we just have to fill, but primarily we would like to get as many from club. We want them to bring their families, contribute to the community and make it a two-way street, rather than just coming in for the Mitre 10 Cup.”
Costa, whose brother Rodrigo is now recovering from a fractured collarbone which could rule him out for about two months, had the option of remaining with Auckland after making a couple of appearances last season, but was keen for a change of scenery.
That’s nothing new for the 23-year-old, who lived in Argentina, New Zealand and Abu Dhabi growing up as the son of an airline pilot, and has also played rugby in Spain.
“I was thinking I was going to stay in Auckland for another season, but my manager told me the Stags were interested. I talked to Dave (Hewett) and [assistant coach] Jase (Kawau) and something just felt right. It made sense to me, I made my mind up right away.”
Costa has enjoyed the blue cod and the friendly, open nature of the locals since arriving in the south.
“I’d never even been to the South Island before. It feels like more of a community, the people are honest, they want to help you out.”