Rutledge appears surplus to requirements
Stags favourite Jason Rutledge accepts he probably won't be playing for the Highlanders next season.
Despite another impressive campaign with the southern franchise, playing an unfamiliar bench role behind All Black Andrew Hore, the 34-year-old has been told by Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph that his services probably won't be required in 2013.
The Highlanders have signed Rutledge's apprentice - at his plumbing business and in the Southland front row - Brayden Mitchell, and are in talks with Hore about his return to Dunedin for a second season.
"Brayden's contracted and they are contracting Horey," Rutledge said yesterday.
"[Hore] had a few offers overseas, which I think he was contemplating but it looks like he's sticking with the Highlanders so Jamie said to me that the chances of me playing for the Highlanders would depend on Horey or Brayden getting injured or the possibility of the franchises taking three hookers."
Cost-cutting measures this season meant the New Zealand Rugby Union forced franchises to include two hookers only on their books and it was expected that that would continue next year.
Rutledge said the other franchises had already locked in their hookers for next season.
"Even if I play well in the NPC, I'm in a position where everything is taken. I've just got to make sure that I'm one of the ones who's the next cab off the rank if something happens."
Despite the lack of opportunities in New Zealand, Rutledge said he had not looked at any long-term options overseas. He is open to a short off-season stint with his family but remains committed to being available for the Stags.
Rutledge, who brought up his 50th game for the Highlanders earlier this season, has played 118 games for Southland and is poised to overtake Gerald Dermody (120) as the provincial recordholder.
"I don't want to be looking [overseas] when I've still got options with the Stags. Some boys shoot over to America and do a four-month stint. Gina and I haven't been overseas, so maybe we could do something like that in between NPC seasons, like a working holiday. I'm more than happy just playing for the Stags, if that's the way it's going to be and being the next cab off the rank if something happens in Super Rugby," Rutledge said.
"Jamie said he needs to look to the future and I told him not to count me out yet - I may be 34 but I think I've definitely got another two good years in me."
The Southland Times