Highlanders captain faces six weeks on the sidelines
Unwanted at the start of the season and 'loaned' to the Hurricanes just a week ago, hooker Jason Rutledge has become one of two veterans recalled by the Highlanders.
The 35-year-old Southland hooker, Rutledge, and 34-year-old former Otago midfield back Neil Brew joined the Highlanders squad in Dunedin on Monday.
The franchise confirmed, in a statement, that Rutledge and Brew joined the Highlanders squad as injury cover for the next four to six weeks.
Rutledge, who made his debut for the Highlanders in 2004 and then after playing just two games did not return to the Highlanders until 2009 season, was axed from the Highlanders squad this season - with the 34-year-old Andrew Hore (as captain) and Rutledge's 24-year-old Southland teammate Brayden Mitchell were preferred.
Both Hore and Mitchell suffered injuries in the 19-23 loss to the Hurricanes last week, with Rutledge unused but part of the Hurricanes' wider squad.
Hore damaged rib cartilage early in the game against the Hurricanes, and Mitchell's collarbone was dislocated. It is believed they could both be sidelined for up to a six weeks.
Liam Coltman, a member of the wider training group of the Highlanders in 2011 but unused, is now the only hooker left standing in the squad - hence the recall of the popular and durable Rutledge.
While the recall of Rutledge is still understandable, given the injury situation, but the return of Brew is a genuine bolt from the blue.
He has not featured in the southern franchise in these parts since 2006, when he played the last of his 34 games for the Highlanders.
Brew, who also played for New Zealand Maori, spent a couple of seasons in England, playing for Bristol, and then went to Japan.
Brew provides cover for Tamati Ellison (shoulder injury, two to three months before his return) and Shaun Treeby (hamstring, four to six weeks).
All Black centre Ma'a Nonu (knee) is also expected to be available to play the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday.
No.8 Nasi Manu (foot, three to four months) is the other long-term casualty in the Highlanders, whose first few weeks in what was hoped to be a successful campaign have been extremely disappointing.
Hosea Gear is the Highlanders' vice-captain, but veteran lock Brad Thorn assumed the captaincy when Hore left the field against the Hurricanes, and it may be that Thorn gets the job on a semi-permanent basis.
Source: Otago Daily Times