Stag leaves on Super journey
The Stags have lost their tighthead prop, with Nick Barrett signing to play for Auckland for the next two years.
The 25-year-old Southland Boys' High School product started 17 of Southland's 20 competition games in the past two seasons.
All up he played 35 games for the Stags after making his debut in the Ranfurly Shield defence against North Otago in 2010.
Barrett's departure is another blow for Southland who have built up an impressive reputation for developing national age-group representatives but have probably not got the long-term impact they would have liked out of them with the Stags.
Barrett was part of the New Zealand team which won the under-19 World Championships in 2007 and progressed through the Rugby Southland Academy system to the Stags first team.
He joins the likes of Brayden Mitchell and Marty McKenzie who followed a similar path in Southland before linking up with another province.
Mitchell is now at Waikato and McKenzie has signed a two-year contract to play for Taranaki.
Barrett told The Southland Times yesterday his decision to link with Auckland was about giving him the best opportunity to play Super Rugby in the future.
"You've just got to do what's right for you, I've got to go about it the best way for me to get that opportunity. I think most of the Auckland team play Super Rugby so it will be good being around them and learning from different coaches," he said.
"I felt like I did need something fresh, I suppose. I was probably a bit too comfortable down in Southland and I needed to get out of my comfort zone and reignite that flame."
Barrett said it was a difficult decision to leave Southland.
"It's nothing against the new coach coming in, I've heard a lot of good things about him. I had a good chat with [Stags coach] Brad [Mooar] before I decided to go to Auckland."
Jamie Mackintosh is the only prop on Rugby Southland's books.
Mooar said yesterday he was comfortable with the propping stocks in Southland and was confident they would not have problems covering the loss of Barrett.
He said they were after players that wanted to play for Southland and there were plenty of those people in the province at the moment.
"He had his chance to stay and decided to go elsewhere, so good luck to him and we'll see him at some point.
"I'm comfortable with where we are at, we're creating some competition. I think within the group we're fine and it's not a concern," he said.
Pirates-Old Boys prop JP Koen is probably the front-runner to fill the tighthead role after he nudged ahead of Barrett for a couple of starts last season.
Morgan Mitchell last season transformed himself from a hooker to tighthead prop and impressed in that role playing for the Eastern-Northern Barbarians in club rugby.
He has spent the off-season playing in Wales and, if he can continue to impress in the coming club season, could squeeze his way into the Stags' plans.
Meanwhile, Barrett will join up with Auckland after the Super Rugby season after spending time in Hamilton as part of the Chiefs wider training squad.
He has been battling tendinitis in his Achilles but is enjoying the experience with the Chiefs.
"I'm just learning as much as I can from the coaches and learning in a new environment, it's been good really."
- The Southland Times