He replaces Hoani Macdonald, who resigned from his position in November, after an underwhelming two-year stint during which the Stags won just two Mitre 10 Cup matches from 20 played.
Hewett was the Crusaders’ forwards coach for six years but earlier this year he missed out on the Canterbury coaching position to Glenn Delaney. He was also overlooked when Scott Robertson was appointed as Crusaders head coach this season.
Rugby Southland general manager Andrew Moreton said he was impressed by the calibre of the candidates who applied for the coaching job but that he was happy to appoint someone like Hewett who has a superb skill-set.
“Dave brings an extensive background in the professional rugby ranks as a player, in management, and as a coach,” he told Stuff.
Hewett played in 22 Tests for the All Blacks from 2001 to 2003. He represented the Crusaders 71 times 1998 to 2005 and won four Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders between 1998 and 2005.
He recently coached the United States Eagles in their Test against Germany and Georgia and is also the current scrum coach for the New Zealand U20 side.
He said he was excited about the opportunity to coach Southland.
“Being head coach of the Southland Stags is a huge honour for me,” said Hewitt.
“To be head coach of a team which has so much pride and history, with a great opportunity ahead of them, is what really motivates me. Helping to develop players and coaches, from within the region, is also a driver for me in taking the role.”