Crusaders winger Sevu Reece has opted to re-sign with Waikato for the 2019 Mitre 10 Cup season.
Reece this month made his Super Rugby debut and was named man of the match in a commanding 57-28 win against the Chiefs in Christchurch.
The 22-year-old led the try-scoring charts in last year’s Mitre 10 Cup, with 14 in 11 matches, as the Mooloos won the Championship to earn promotion back to the Premiership at the first attempt.
With no Super Rugby contract immediately on the table when the 2019 squads were announced last October, Reece was picked by the Crusaders as injury cover after spending a few seasons in the wider Chiefs squad.
The Fijian was due to leave New Zealand last year to join Connacht, but the Irish club ripped up his two-year contract after he appeared in the Hamilton District Court on one count of male assaults female, an incident involving his girlfriend last July.
He was discharged without conviction last October, fined $750, and suspended for one Mitre 10 Cup match when Waikato lost the Ranfurly Shield to Otago.
New Zealand Rugby and the Crusaders offered him a lifeline and Rugby Players Association chief executive Rob Nichol told Stuff earlier this month that Reece had done everything right to get back into rugby following his court appearance.
Reece’s new deal with Waikato, the province he first represented in 2016, is just for 2019, a Waikato Rugby Union statement said on Thursday.
“He has worked hard on his game last season and made significant shifts in crucial aspects. His defensive work was impressive and his high ball reception was a particular strength,” Waikato coach Andrew Strawbridge said.
“Sevu is a very exciting player and he is keen to build on his already significant contributions to Waikato Rugby. He is determined to be a positive influence in our environment and we look forward to watching his continued success at the Crusaders.”
Reece has won 33 caps for Waikato in three seasons with the Mooloos after rising up the ranks from Hamilton Boys’ High School and club rugby with Melville and Hamilton Old Boys.