Jamie Mackintosh, fed up with his treatment at the Highlanders which has seen him go from captain to virtually unwanted this season, is heading to the Chiefs.
It is understood that the loosehead prop, who before this season had played 62 times for the Highlanders, has decided to move after being constantly overlooked by coach Jamie Joseph.
All Black Tony Woodcock has been favoured for the No1 jersey, with the captaincy going to hooker Andrew Hore. Woodcock, who has been underwhelming for the Highlanders this season due to injuries and a lack of form, joined the franchise from the Blues at the start of the year.
Despite being fit and available, Mackintosh, 28, has played only five times this season. His last appearance was a start against the Blues in Dunedin on June 1, a stunning victory for Joseph's men.
He wasn't named in the match day squad for the recent loss to the Crusaders, a phenomenon he has become all too familiar with this season.
On the face of it, Joseph might not be unduly worried about Mackintosh's departure, but the Highlanders board, which will grill him after a season which has so far reaped only two victories, will not be impressed. A born and bred Southlander, Mackintosh, an affable figure, is popular with supporters. A big man at 1.93m and 130kg, he said last month that being cut down to size was painful. "It's hard. Coming from doing everything, to being pushed down the pecking order, it's a real humbling experience and it's a reality, but I think you've got to learn stuff out of each situation in life."
One-test All Black Mackintosh will join a Chiefs squad with plenty of front row talent, but there is an expectation that he will fulfil his potential in Hamilton after becoming a little too comfortable in Dunedin, at least before this season.
He is a good replacement for Toby Smith, who is leaving for the Rebels at the end of the season, and will be up against Pauliasi Manu for the loosehead position. The Chiefs are also well served at tighthead, with recent All Blacks debutant Ben Afeaki and improving man-mountain Ben Tameifuna fighting for the No3 jersey.
There is also a feeling the new scrum law to be trialled next year will favour Mackintosh. Having been changed to a "crouch, touch, set" call this season, the sequence will be altered to "crouch, bind, set" next year, with the two opposing props binding, rather than touching, before the engagement. The law is designed to lessen the chance of collapsed scrums by taking some of the impact out of the collision.
Mackintosh has good strength and is an able scrummager, but is said to be relatively poor at "winning the hit".
The defending champion Chiefs, sitting pretty at the top of the table ahead of their clash against the ominous-looking Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday, could prove to be the ideal destination for Mackintosh, a man in need of a change of scenery.