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The 29-year-old is one of the last big-name players remaining in the Otago top order this season and he crafted one of his better first-class centuries on day two of his side's match against Northern Districts at Bay Oval.
But despite the left-hander's determined effort of 115, the home side is well placed to start the season with an outright win.
Northern Districts needs a further 152 runs with nine wickets in hand to secure victory after dismissing Otago for 231.
Black Caps captain Kane Williamson will resume on 28 not out with Henry Cooper at the wicket with him on 14.
It will take another mighty bowling effort by Otago to turn the match.
"We had this team 60 for eight the other day so there is no reason why we can't [win]," Volts coach Rob Walter said.
"But the pitch has changed a bit and Kane is set. But we start fresh [today] and there is nothing to say we can't get a couple of quick wickets and start a bit of a roll like that. So for me 150 is still a long way off."
Rutherford aside, though, the Volts just did not bat well enough to establish a defendable target in a what has been a low-scoring fixture. Former Volts left-hander Neil Wagner made sure of that.
Otago resumed on 88 for one but lost Shawn Hicks on 47 thanks to a rash shot second ball.
He leaped into a pull shot and picked out James Baker at mid wicket.
Wagner celebrated the mistake by trapping Mitch Renwick lbw for one and removing Josh Finnie shortly after. He finished up with a haul for four for 75 to go with the three he took in the first innings.
Rutherford watched helplessly from the other end. He did not get any real help until Christi Viljoen dug in for 33 at No9.
Rutherford brought up his 12th first-class hundred with a pull shot for four off his old mate, Wagner.
He would have enjoyed that moment. And given the context of the game and calibre of the attack, it was fine innings indeed.
"You can't speak highly enough of a knock like that. That was some high quality batting against a high quality bowling attack on a responsive wicket," Walter said.
"It was a hugh contribution to our score and gives you an insight into how good it actually was."
Walter said he was happy with the mix of the side despite opting for a second spinner at the expense of specialist batsman Josh Tasman-Jones.
"We've gone in with four seamers which is a must on this pitch and our two spinners contributed 40 wickets between them last year.
"It is easy to reflect in hindsight and say we could have done this or done that. But I'm happy with the mix of the team.
"It gives us a lot of different options. We saw [leg-spinner] Ish Sodhi having an impact at the end of the day, so who is to say the spinners won't come in to play at some point."
There was no play possible on day two in Nelson. Central Districts is stuck on 301 for seven in its game with Canterbury at Saxton Oval.
At the Basin Reserve, Auckland reached 230 for five at stumps on day two of its match against Wellington.
It trails Wellington by 25 runs. Test opener Jeet Raval top-scored with 102.