Mitre 10 Cup: All Black contender James Lentjes fuelled by Otago success, not national call-up

Despite being linked to higher honours, Otago flanker James Lentjes thinks he is a long shot to make the All Blacks' end of year tour squad.

With Sam Cane recovering from surgery to repair a broken neck and Matt Todd in Japan, Steve Hansen has found himself on the hunt for a back-up option to Ardie Savea for the trip north.

Lentjes' name has been thrown around as an option, joining North Harbour's Dillon Hunt and Hawke's Bay's Gareth Evans as genuine contenders.

But for the 27-year-old Highlanders loose forward, his focus is on getting as much game time as possible for the blue and golds.

Lentjes missed the Super Rugby season after undergoing shoulder reconstruction, and was then ruled out of the first month of Mitre 10 Cup due to a bulged disc in his neck.

The Christchurch native only returned to the paddock two weeks ago, so any thought of acquiring an All Blacks jersey is unealistic.

"I don't want to put any extra pressure on myself by thinking about something like that - I just want to go out there and play," Lentjes told Newshub.

"I just have to do my job for this team first. There are some really good sevens around, so they have a few options.

"I just need to get back to playing some good footy and the rest will take care of itself. I'm sure [the selectors] know what they want."

The former St Bede's College standout will be a key cog in Otago's bid to wrest the Ranfurly Shield from Waikato on Saturday in Hamilton.

A win for the Southerners will not only win them the prized trophy for the second time in two-seasons, but also keep their hopes alive of a home semi-final in the Mitre 10 Cup Championship.

With Hawke's Bay travelling to Nelson to take on Premiership heavyweights Tasman, victory over the Mooloos would be enough if the Bay can't cause an upset.

Lentjes is excited to be in a position to contribute to Otago's hopes of success in the home stretch of the 2018 season.

"The more time I spend on the field, the better I feel and the better I tend to play - but the body is feeling really good now, so it's just about putting some minutes together by staying on the park," he said.

"It's the business end of the season, and that's exactly when you want to be playing rugby - I just want to get stuck and do my part for the boys."

And if he does get the call from Steve Hansen next week, Lentjes admitted it would be surreal.

"It's a goal of any kid in New Zealand that goes on to play professional rugby - but you can't focus on the outcome."