Stags hooker Brayden Mitchell has signed with Waikato for the 2013 provincial season.
Mitchell a member of the New Zealand under 20's in 2009 has been a member of the Southland setup since 2009 and the Highlanders since 2010.
"I'm looking forward to a new challenge but I will definitely miss my friends and family in the south," Mitchell said in a statement.
Stags coach David Henderson said: "Whilst it's always disappointing to lose a player of Brayden's calibre it's understandable in today's environment that we will see greater movement of players between provinces, his decision to move has obviously been a hard one to make however he is looking for a challenge and see's the starting position in Waikato as an opportunity. Brayden is a Southland boy and he would always be welcome back, we wish him all the best.''
Rugby Southland general manager Brian Hopley said the union would only spend what it could afford on players.
"We are taking a sensible approach to player contracting...we have some key objectives in others areas to ensure the future of rugby in Southland we believe this approach is the best possible given our circumstances.''
The player contracting window remains open.
Hopley said Mitchell's departure did not mean it was time to panic.
''It is only through determined hard work and the support of the local community and Southland business that we have been able to field a competitive provincial team and that continued support will determine the future path of our union.''
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