Giving himself a chanceNATHAN BURDON
Jamie Mackintosh's move to the Chiefs will hopefully be the spark his career needs.
This week's announcement that the Stags skipper if heading to Hamilton shouldn't have come as a great surprise - but it did, because he's had such a long association with the franchise.
If anything it's come 12 months later than it should. I wouldn't have blamed him if he had asked for an out when the Highlanders signed Tony Woodcock.
It was obvious then that Mackintosh's game time was going to be limited. Becase he's a specialist loosehead, coaches can't really afford to play him off the bench, so he was either going to start or sit in the grandstand.
Even with Woodcock struggling with injury and form, Jamie Joseph has stuck by the All Black for much of the season.
Mackintosh, who was troubled by a back injury early in the campaign, has taken what opporunities he's been given.
He was good during the win over the Blues, easily the Highlanders best game this season.
The arrival of Woodcock and Brad Thorn should have shored up what has been a weak Highlanders scrum in recent years.
The franchise will now have to look for another loosehead, although they will probably also be relying on Bronson Murray, who must lead one of the more charmed existences in Super Rugby.
But back to Mackintosh.
The one they call Whopper sat down with his family after the news of Woodcock's signing and discussed his options.
He decided he would give it everything he had, on and off the field, and he can leave the Highlanders firm in the knowledge that he did that.
It can't have been easy to watch from the sidelines as a team you once captained struggles from game to game.
The Chiefs will offer a new experience, under the guidance of coach Dave Rennie, who seems to have a knack for getting more out of a player than you would expect.
Mackintosh loves his rugby, loves being part of a team environment. His scrummaging has never been described as outstanding - not unusual for a tall prop - and there are valid criticisms that he goes to ground too easily with ball in hand.
Both those aspects would appear to be technique-based, which means they can be improved, if not fixed.
Next season, Super Rugby teams will carry two props on their bench as part of a new IRB edict. Mackintosh will be guaranteed to be on the bench, if not playing, which means regular game time - something the big men need to keep their fitness up.
At 29, Mackintosh will be starting to come into his prime as a frontrower. Maybe I'm reaching here a bit, but I'm not prepared to completely discount the fact he could strticularlyill get back into the All Blacks, pa with extended benches.
Certainly that wasn't going to happen at the Highlanders, so at least he's giving himself a chance.
- (Live Matches)