Another chapter added to the story of Southland rugby legend Jason Rutledge

Southland Stags hooker Jason Rutledge at training at the Les George Oval at Invercargill's Centrepoint Park.
Kavinda Herath

Southland Stags hooker Jason Rutledge at training at the Les George Oval at Invercargill's Centrepoint Park.

The Jason Rutledge story just keeps giving.

Even the most hearty Jason Rutledge fans would most probably have thought their days watching the popular bald headed hooker playing in the Stags jersey were over.

Over a 14 year career from 2000 to 2014 he developed into a cult figure in Southland rugby with his no-nonsense approach on the field and humble attitude off it.

He has had many injury and selection setbacks during that time, but whenever people have started to roll the credits on his time playing for Southland he has continued to pop back up.

READ MORE: 
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None more so than his latest comeback.

The 38-year-old - who holds the Southland record for most appearances with 131 -  was called into the Stags set up this week to train alongside the team.

On Friday he was named on the bench for Southland's opening game of the 2016 provincial season against Otago at Rugby Park in Invercargill.

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Rutledge is a substitution away from making his first appearance for the Stags since an injury against Bay of Plenty in week one of 2014 ruled him out for the remainder of the season.

The Invercargill plumber has never been all that keen to talk retirement and inturn put a line through what many would have suggested a slim hope to add to his 131 caps.

Rutledge's stance though has always been as long as he is playing for his club Woodlands he would be available to step out again for his beloved province.

That glimmer of hope has now just become reality as he etches another chapter to his intriguing rugby story.

Rutledge's inclusion was one of the interesting elements to the team named to play Otago in Invercargill on Sunday.

There was another in the front row where Fijian international prop Peni Ravai gets the start on the loosehead side of the scrum.

The 25-year-old has played 13 tests for the Fiji 15s team including four games at the 2015 World Cup in England.

Interestingly he is believed to be the only front-rower to ever play for the Fiji sevens team on the international circuit.

Early indications were that Western Force prop Guy Millar would probably start at loosehead prop and Morgan Mitchell at tight-head.

However, Miller will start at tight-head with Mitchell and Joe Walsh are set to come off the bench.

Young prop Shaun Stodart has been released to play for the Southland B team on Sunday.

In the backline, Jaye Thompson-Te Muunu will make his debut on the right wing at Rugby Park on Sunday.

Thompson-Te Muunu has progressed through the age-group before now getting his opportunity.

As expected former Waikato player Wharenui Hawera will have the all-important first five-eighth position for game one.

Meanwhile, former Southland first five-eighth Scott Eade has been handed the start for Otago against his old team.

Highlanders first five-eighth Fletcher Smith has returned to the Otago setup but he has been named on the bench with Eade - who has spent most of the preseason at first five - getting the first crack.

Otago is about to embark on four games in 14 days to start their season with the bulk of their squad likely to get an opportunity as players come and go from the starting lineup.

Sunday's game will be refereed by Jamie Nutbrown and will kick-off at 2.35pm.

THE TEAMS

Southland

Tauasosi Tuimavave, Jaye Thompson-Te Muunu, Dylan Collier, James Schrader, Mike Molloy, Wharenui Hawera, Jimmy Cowan, Mika Mafi, Phil Halder, Bill Fukofuka, Matthew Philip, Mike McKee, Guy Millar, Brayden Mitchell, Peni Ravai.

Reserves; Jason Rutledge, Morgan Mitchell, Joe Walsh, Mike Stewart, Wade McRae, Jahvis Wallace, Greg Dyer, Junior Ngaluafe.

Otago

Tony Ensor, Fa'asiu Fuata'i, Michael Collins, Teihorangi Walden, Mitchell Scott, Scott Eade, Jonathan Ruru, Paul Grant, Dillon Hunt, Adam Knight, Josh Dickson, Tom Rowe, Donald Brighouse, Liam Coltman, Craig Miller.

Reserves; Sekonia Pole, Aki Seiuli, Hisa Sasagi, Lee Allan, James Lentjes, Josh Walden, Fletcher Smith, Sio Tomkinson.

 

 

 

 - Stuff

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