Nick Barrett relishes chance to play
Nick Barrett has shouldered a fair bit of responsibility on his 23-year-old shoulders this season.
The Stags prop has played every game for Southland this season as the only specialist tighthead in the squad, after starting the campaign with only 15 caps to his name.
It's been a marked learning curve for the former Southland Boys' High School product who has spent much of the past few seasons on the sideline, either with the Stags or as a squad member with the Crusaders in Super Rugby.
"It's good to string a few games together. It's good to get an opportunity and (David Henderson) has been great."
Sitting behind the likes of the Franks brothers and Wyatt Crockett during his time in Christchurch, Barrett has been able to pick up plenty of tips.
On the other side of the scrum, Southland skipper Jamie Mackintosh believes Barrett has made important strides this season.
A player who needs to be playing to keep his form and fitness, Barrett has been frustrated by niggly knee and hamstring injuries which have ruled him out at vital times and kept the former New Zealand under-19 representative from fully realising his potential.
He received a lesson in scrummaging from former team-mate Chris King when the pair butted heads at Rugby Park last weekend as the Taranaki scrum overwhelmed the Stags in the early stages of the game.
"I like to learn from my mistakes. I suppose that's what's good about getting a lot of game time, you can put into practise what you are learning.
"Going up against gnarly props like Mule (King), you learn from the experience."
Barrett is out of contract with the Crusaders and yet to attract any interest from another franchise.
The Highlanders had King and Manawatu's Ma'afu Fia on the books this season.
Southland has some issues in the front row ahead of a game against Manawatu they must win to remain in semifinals contention.
Mackintosh has a painful rib injury he suffered against Taranaki and it's yet to be decided whether he will play on Friday night, while reserve loosehead Micheal Peterson dislocated an ankle on Monday night.
If Mackintosh and Peterson were both ruled out, Tuki Raimona would start for the Stags, with either Jason Rutledge providing front row cover or rookie Aston Talaia coming into contention having recently recovered from a long-term foot injury.
The Southland Times