They were always part of a succession plan
Highlanders boss Roger Clarke is adamant losing a number of high profile players is just bad timing, rather than a reflection on the franchise.
Andrew Hore's departure makes him the seventh All Black that won't be down south in next year's Super Rugby season.
Clarke insists it's what can happen when you have an ageing squad.
"I think the fact that it's all happened at the same time is probably a little bit unfortunate," he told Newstalk ZB.
"But I think one of the things after you have a year like we've just had is that you've got to make changes.
"Part of that change we've identified is that we need a lot of youth."
Clarke, who denied Hore is leaving as a result of personality issues, said the veteran hooker has not been pushed out of the franchise, but nor has he jumped.
Hore is deemed surplus to requirements for next year's Super Rugby competition, fuelling speculation the All Black hooker will retire.
Clarke says with Liam Coltman and Brayden Mitchell, they have two young hookers ready to step up.
"They were always part of a succession plan and that's been judged by the coaches as time to implement that succession plan next year.
"The guys have been with us for three years and watching ITM Cup they're starting to come to the fore."
The Highlanders will be without All Blacks Andrew Hore (set to retire), Tony Woodcock (reportedly heading back to the Blues), Ma'a Nonu (unwanted in New Zealand), Tamati Ellison (signed with the Rebels for 2014), Hosea Gear (signed with French club Toulouse), Jamie Mackintosh (joined the Chiefs for 2014) and Kade Poki (signed for Japanese club Kubota Spears).
Source: Newstalk ZB