Northland's injury list is starting to grow after three players, all loose-forwards, picked up injuries against Southland on Thursday night.
Aorangi Stokes, Sam McNamara and Kane Jacobson all left Rugby Park Stadium prematurely in the Taniwha's 27-17 win over their southern foes two nights ago. Stokes, who started at number eight, was taken off for a head injury assessment in the second half, which he failed.
Blindside flanker McNamara came off with a shoulder injury in the first half and was replaced by Jacobson. The reserve almost made it through to 80 minutes until an injury saw him supported from the field by medical staff.
All three are considered in doubt for Thursday's vital clash against Auckland in Northland's first home game of 2019 until more information on the injuries is made available today.
Those players could add to the list of five already injured Northlanders, midfielder Tamati Tua, flanker Tom Robinson, first five Dan Hawkins, halfback Harrison Levien and outside back Rene Ranger.
Both Robinson (meniscus tear) and Tua (suspected high ankle sprain) were expected to be out for a couple of weeks, while Hawkins could possibly be available for selection against Auckland.
Levien, who has had concussion issues, was being considered week by week for his selection. Ranger (ruptured ACL) would be unlikely to feature for Northland this season.
While a potential eight-man injury count wasn't helpful this early in the season, Northland head coach Derren Witcombe chose to look on the bright side.
"[It's] definitely not [ideal], but I think it's exciting, someone else could get an opportunity" he said.
"If we need to bring someone in, it'll be through the development team and that's what where are heading towards, building a really strong local team and creating pathways."
Regarding Thursday night's game, Witcombe said while it wasn't pretty, he was proud of his team for getting the job done.
"Obviously it's really good to get the win, it's never an easy place for any team to go and get a win in Invercargill."
Northland came out as the dominant side in the first half with an overwhelming share of territory and possession but couldn't cross Southland's try line which saw them trailing 10-6 at halftime.
Southland conceded a number of penalties on their own line under immense pressure at scrum time from Northland and Witcombe believed his side was unfortunate not to reap their deserved rewards.
"I think we were unlucky not to get a penalty try or a yellow card out of that but then the momentum shifted a bit and it let them in the game after we didn't score, so that's maybe a work-on for us."
Two of Southland's three tries were thrilling length of the field efforts off the back of two Northland handling errors, a statistic Northland led in the first half, six to four.
With the lead and momentum, Southland threatened to break their 21 National Provincial Championship game losing streak before Northland scored three tries of their own to claim a 10-point lead going into the final minutes.
Their winning margin was under threat as the game came to a close with Northland camped on their own line, defending wave after wave of Southland attack. Northland managed to steal the ball soon after the hooter sounded which was a big positive for Witcombe.
"The way we finished defensively, I think we just pressured them into mistakes and shut them out of the game really and I think our fitness held up quite well," he said.
"I remember there was a similar situation with Manawatu last year when we were well ahead but we let them in with a soft try to finish the game and now I think the boys showed a lot of character and care for each other, they didn't want Southland to cross our line which is good."
While he admitted Thursday's performance would not be good enough to beat Auckland (last year's Premiership champions), Witcombe said his players knew they had to capitalise on their momentum.
"We are really excited about Auckland and we definitely not going to sit back and let them run at us.
"There's nothing better than the big boys coming up to our home ground and we'll give them everything we've got."
Northland play Auckland at the Northland Events Centre in Whangārei on Thursday, kickoff at 7.35pm.