SouthlandSport editor Nathan Burdon

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Rugby Southland are confident they’ve found the right man for two jobs in new Stags defence coach Dale MacLeod.

While the former Blues A head coach and Northland assistant coach will have a defence focus with the Stags, a significant part of his job description is about developing the ability of club coaches at premier and division one level, Rugby Southland general manager Brian Hopley said.

“We identified that we haven’t spent enough time developing our coaches, so a big part of this role is to get out there and upskill our coaches using a hub approach,” Hopley said.

“We need to develop and mentor coaches within Southland. That means we will also get better skilled players coming through.”


"Defence tells you a lot about a team, it tells you what their culture is like, how hard they are prepared to work." - Dale MacLeod

MacLeod grew up in Kurow and played for North Otago as a teenage five-eighth before plying his trade in Australia.

His coaching development started in the Canterbury system before moving onto roles with the Blues and then Northland.

“I’m really looking forward to getting down there and getting into it,” MacLeod said.

“It’s a similar role to what I’ve been doing the past three years with Northland. The temperature will probably be a bit cooler, but there are similar challenges. I’m from down south, I’ve got relations in Otago and Southland and I enjoy the outdoors, the hunting and fishing, so it’s a great opportunity.”

MacLeod had an attacking brief with Northland, but defence is something he takes a pragmatic approach towards.

“It’s about clarity, everyone understanding their roles. Defence tells you a lot about a team, it tells you what their culture is like, how hard they are prepared to work. I really enjoy that challenge and I like how guys can measure themselves each week on the qualities that are required for good defence.”

Having studied Southland rugby, MacLeod is confident he can stiffen up a defensive line which leaked too many points last year.

“It’s very tough in that Mitre 10 environment, it was the same in Northland. I’m coming in with my eyes wide open. Southland did some really good things last year - they made a lot of tackles. It was just their systems that let them down, not their intent.”

Stags coach Dave Hewett is looking forward to MacLeod joining the coaching group alongside fellow assistant Jason Kawau.

“He’s had Mitre 10 experience, which will be great support for both myself and Jason. He can also spread his ability developing club coaches at both premier and division one level, which bodes well for Southland rugby.”

MacLeod’s recent experience in the wider Blues set up meant he had a good understanding of current rugby trends, Hewett said.

“You just look at Northland and the way it’s gone in Mitre 10 Cup, they have improved dramatically, and particularly from a defence point of view, which shows some of the things he was putting in place have had a positive impact. I’ve seen his ability to develop coaches first hand. He’s got a good way of connecting with people, he gets the best out of people and those strengths are what we need down south.”

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