The Highlanders have confirmed that they have not re-signed All Black hooker Andrew Hore for the 2014 Super Rugby season which has fuelled speculation he is on the verge of retirement.
Hore has joined Ma'a Nonu on a list of current All Blacks who do not have a Super Rugby contract for next season.
Instead of re-signing Hore for 2014 Highlanders' General Manager, Roger Clark said he wished the 79-Test All Blacks hooker well "with whatever future endeavours he undertakes".
Clark thanked Hore for his contribution to the Highlanders over the past two seasons in which he played 29 games for the Highlanders and captained the team on 13 occasions.
Head Coach Jamie Joseph said, "Horey's contribution to NZ rugby has been enormous and the fact that he is still playing at the very top level at 35 years of age is testament to his durability and skill as a player".
However, Joseph added that the time was right for the Highlanders to look to the future in regards to its hookers.
"I believe that in Liam Coltman and Brayden Mitchell we have two players who have served their apprenticeship having been with the squad since 2011. Both players have been an important part of our succession planning in the key role of hooker"
The 35-year-old Hore has not made any statement about his future, but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen indicated retirement was close when he named Dane Coles to start at hooker against the Springboks on Saturday.
Hansen said Coles was seen as part of the All Blacks squad being groomed for the 2015 World Cup.
"I do not see Horey being there and I don't think he sees himself being there," Hansen said.
Meanwhile, all five New Zealand franchises have shut the door on Nonu who is now believed to be looking at the option of playing in France.
Nonu, who has played 82 Tests, has developed a reputation as a player unable to produce his Test form at Super Rugby level.