Highlanders prop Siate Tokolahi is heading for France but there is a queue ready to replace him.
Tokolahi (29) is believed to have signed a contract with a French club and is heading to Europe at the end of the Highlanders season.
The big Tongan has been involved in nearly every game for the Highlanders over the past two seasons and has improved his mobility around the field. He is a strong scrummager, who has been part of an improving Highlanders scrum this season.
In some ways it is not a surprise Tokolahi is departing, as quality props are in short supply in France and are highly valued. The money on offer in France is also very enticing.
Tokolahi was born in Tonga and moved to Auckland for his school. He then moved to Christchurch late in his schooling. He debuted for Canterbury in 2014 and then signed for the Chiefs the following year.
In 2017, he moved to the Highlanders, and made his debut in the first game of the season against the Chiefs. The prop played for Southland last year but would not be back for the Stags this season.
Tokolahi will be missed, but the side has options at tighthead.
Former Melbourne Rebels and Australian international Jermaine Ainsley has signed for the franchise this season but an ankle injury has scuttled his season. He has signed for two years.
Josh Hohneck has the ability to play both sides of the scrum and has played well, though he has been used mostly as a replacement player. At 35 he is not getting any younger but experience in the engine room is highly valued by the Highlanders coaching staff.
Bay of Plenty prop Jeff Thwaites has barely been sighted in his two years with the Highlanders. He made 10 appearances for the Highlanders last year, all but two of them off the bench, and has not started a game this year. Thwaites was a mainstay for Bay of Plenty last year.
One player the Highlanders will be keen to add to the mix is Harbour prop Saula Ma’u.
Ma’u who weighs in about 130kg and has trained with the Highlanders for the past couple of seasons, is a very promising prop and is likely to make his debut for Otago this year.
A dislocated shoulder caused him to miss all of last season.