Mitre 10 Cup: Southland will turn around rugby fortunes - Dave Hewitt

Southland will turn around the province's misfortunes on the rugby paddock, it's just going to take time, insists coach Dave Hewitt.

The Stags have lost 20 straight Mitre 10 Cup games, since topping Northland in October 2016.

Wednesday night's 56-8 thrashing at the hands of Auckland resulted in Southland earning the unwanted record of losing the most consecutive games in top-flight New Zealand rugby.

But Hewitt is a believer, noting that success isn't achievable overnight, but the province has a plan to get back on track.

"Yes, I think we can," Hewitt told RadioLIVE's Brendon Telfer. "I truly believe that Southland has the depth and the resources to stem the tide, and then start climbing out of it.

"It's something that when I applied for the role, I knew it would be a challenge and not an overnight fix.

"I want to try and help Southland gain the former pride it had from a provincial point of view. It's going to take time and it's going to take investment form people getting on the same page to make sure we are working together.

"There is so much passion for sport down here and sometimes that passion can get in the way of how we need to go to get ahead.

"If we all get on the same page and work together, I think we have a really good chance of turning this around, and bringing that pride back to the jersey and the province."

Mitre 10 Cup: Southland will turn around rugby fortunes - Dave Hewitt

Player recruitment is an area Hewitt would like to explore for the 2019 season, but he would like to stay within the borders of New Zealand, rather than looking to the Pacific Islands, Japan or elsewhere to add depth to his squad.

But with only six club sides playing in the local competition, resources are low, so Hewitt will look to the big cities for help.

"Offshore is not the area I want to go," Hewitt told Saturday Sport. "It's more outside the province, but still within New Zealand. 

"I still have that focus that the role of Mitre 10 Cup is to develop players for New Zealand rugby. If players are foreign nationals and can't represent the All Blacks, then that doesn't benefit New Zealand rugby.

"We still have the focus to develop potential players for the All Blacks, so I would see those recruits coming from a Wellington or an Auckland, rather than overseas.

"I'm not naive enough to say we can fill all our positions within our provincial boundaries. What I want to do is to develop as many provincial players from within that boundary and then, if we have to, we go outside. 

"If you look at any other provincial side in New Zealand, they do a very similar thing. If you look at a side like Tasman or Bay of Plenty, they have as much local talent as they can get that is capable of playing Mitre 10 Cup, but they also then look to fill the voids that they have in their squads from outside the region."

Tasman provides Hewitt with an example of a provincial side that has gone from strength to strength in the last decade.

The Mako formed in 2006 - an amalgamation of Nelson Bays and Marlborough - and have slowly built themselves into a powerhouse of provincial rugby since 2012.

Tasman haven't missed playoff rugby since the 2011 season, winning promotion to the premiership in 2013, making the final in their first year and two more since.

Hewitt told RadioLIVE that if Southland followed a similar model, then success would follow.

"We are in a similar spot as a Tasman from a decade ago and look where they are now from a premiership point of view," Hewitt said.

"If we can get the formula right, with the key people in the right places, then there is no reason why we can't replicate what Tasman have done.

"There is a lot of support from all over the place. The board from Rugby Southland has been really supportive in terms of what we are trying to put in place and, of course, the community are.

"You will always get people who want success to happen sooner and I can understand that, and the most precious resource we don't have is time.

"But to rebuild in the way we are talking about is going to take two or three seasons to get up and running."