John Hardie determined to win back No 7 jersey

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2014
John Hardie
ANTHONY AU-YEUNG/ Getty

DYNAMIC: John Hardie shows some powerful running as he evades the Chiefs' Tanerau Latimer.

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Southland flanker John Hardie has his sights set on regaining the Highlanders No 7 jersey.

The 25-year-old, who has played 39 games for the Highlanders since 2010, has found himself on the outer with the Dunedin franchise in recent weeks, pushed to the blindside flank in the loss to the Force and demoted to club rugby for the past three weeks, with Tasman flanker Shane Christie preferred.

''I'm probably not getting as much time as I want, but that's just the way things are going at the moment and Shane is playing good rugby,'' Hardie said.

''You've got to stay positive. There are 37 players in the squad and someone is going to be disappointed.

''I think Shane [and I] offer different games. I might suit some teams and he might suit others. It's just about getting picked, and if I get picked I'll prove myself.''

When he's been fit, and foot and knee injuries have seriously curtailed his rugby involvement in recent seasons, Hardie has been an automatic selection for both Southland and the Highlanders.

He's contracted with the Stags for this year's NPC and will return to the Highlanders next year.

While Hardie has also been linked with a shift to Scotland and a shot at international rugby, he's in no hurry to explore that path.

''That's in the future hopefully. At the moment I'm just concentrating on the Highlanders and rugby down here. There are options overseas but I'm still relatively young and I've got a few more years here.''

Kane Hames' one-week suspension has meant a reshuffle of the Highlanders front row for tomorrow's game against the Melbourne Rebels in Dunedin.

Chris King moves into loosehead, while Gareth Evans returns to the starting lineup at blindside flanker.

A shoulder injury has ruled out second-five Phil Burleigh, with Shaun Treeby replacing him in the midfield and Kurt Baker comes in for Patrick Osborne on the left wing.

All Black halfback Aaron Smith will make his 50th appearance for the Highlanders.

Meanwhile, former Southland All Black Jimmy Cowan is on the move from Gloucester.

The 51-test All Black halfback has been at the English premiership team since 2011, but told the Gloucester Citizen that he won't to be staying when his contract runs out at the end of the season.

''I won't be back in Gloucester unfortunately,'' he said.

''I don't know where I will be next season, I'm just going through that process now. There's nothing fixed on paper but verbally I have offers.

''Looking back they haven't won a lot over the last few years and with the nucleolus of the team, a lot of young boys, we really want to win something. It would mean a lot to finish on a high here.''

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- The Southland Times

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