All Blacks loose forward Luke Whitelock has recommitted to the Highlanders, Canterbury and New Zealand Rugby to the end of 2019.
Whitelock, who is in the All Blacks squad for next month’s three-test series against France, has represented New Zealand three times since making his debut in 2013.
The No 8 started his Super Rugby career with the Crusaders, and has played 84 matches, including 34 for the Highlanders.
“I feel I am playing some of my best rugby at the moment and I am really enjoying my time in Dunedin and with the Highlanders.
“I am glad the decision to stay has been made and now I can focus on playing as best I can for the Highlanders and the All Blacks,” Whitelock said in a statement.
Whitelock captained the Highlanders to an historic win against the British and Irish Lions in 2017, and has led Canterbury to three consecutive titles in the Mitre 10 Cup.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen praised Whitelock’s decision to stick around, and singled out his strong leadership after he captained the All Blacks against a French XV on last year’s northern tour.
Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger and Canterbury coach Joe Maddock echoed Hansen.
“Luke is a quality guy, outstanding player and is a key part of our leadership group in the Highlanders. As a club we are delighted that he has recommitted to us until the end of 2019,” Mauger said
“His strength lies in his ability to lead by example; he’s a tough, uncompromising player, has a work ethic that is second to none and gets the best out of those around him. We are fortunate to have a player of his character re-commit to the red and black jersey,” Maddock said.
Whitelock has started 11 of the Highlanders’ first 12 games this season, and will start Friday night’s home game against the Hurricanes at No 8.