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Stags out for Wellington revenge

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

The Stags were beaten 45-3 in their quarter-final in the capital last year and lock Hoani MacDonald says memories of that drubbing are still fresh.

Southland is on a high after routing Bay of Plenty 45-11 in Mount Maunganui last weekend and MacDonald believes it will not be hard for the players to peak again for the semi-final.

"Not really. It's the first time we've got this far and there's a good feeling in the team and the province. Everything we do from now on is a bonus and we don't want the season to end," MacDonald said.

"We got a hiding in Wellington last year and we're still smarting from that. We don't want that to happen again. Motivation won't be a problem but we'll need to be at the top of our game.

"Wellington is a really good side. They possibly have had a bit of a hangover after winning the Ranfurly Shield but I'm sure they'll be switched on against us. They've got quality players acoss the park."

MacDonald and his young locking partner, Josh Bekhuis, will mark All Black contenders Ross Filipo and Jeremy Thrush and MacDonald is steeling himself for a torrid battle.

"I've been reasonably satisfied with my form this season," he says. "I've just tried to play rugby and get on with it. I guess the best thing is that I've been fairly consistent.

"I've really enjoyed the season. There's been a good balance in the team between the senior players and young guys coming through."

MacDonald believes veteran hooker Jason Rutledge is an outstanding example of a senior player who had given everything while Bekhuis had made steady improvement at lock.

Southlanders are still buzzing after the runaway win over the Steamers last weekend and the players are keen to repay the public support.

"We hadn't played that well in the games leading up to it, but there was always the belief in the squad," MacDonald says.

"We had squandered a lot of opportunities in the previous few games and we were due to fire. The backs played really well. It's the best feeling a forward can have - to look up from a ruck and see your backs scoring tries. It's made us feel pretty positive about the semi-final."

MacDonald says Southland had learnt from its regular season loss to Bay of Plenty.

"It took us about 11 hours to get to Mount Maunganui. For the quarter-final, we travelled up a day earlier and we weren't rushed. We had time for a training run and even a walk along the beach."

MacDonald, 30, who made his debut for the Stags in 2000, will leave Southland at the end of the season to take up a three-year contract with Welsh club Newport.

He has played 56 matches for Southland, more than 30 for the Highlanders, represented New Zealand Maori since 2004 and the Junior All Blacks in 2006-7.

There have been many highlights for MacDonald in the maroon jersey. There was victory over Italy and Canterbury in 2003, playing the British Lions in 2005 and consecutive wins over neighbour and rival Otago.

"Any win over Otago is a highlight," MacDonald says with a chuckle.

"We're rapt to have come this far but maybe the real highlight is still to come. Who knows?"