Fringe All Blacks number eight Luke Whitelock has been named Highlanders co-captain - along with veteran international Ben Smith - for the 2019 Super Rugby season.
Whitelock, 28, has made seven appearances for the All Blacks, captaining them against a French XV on the 2017 end-of-year northern tour and Japan last year.
He loomed as back-up to All Blacks captain Kieran Read at the back of the scrum, with three tests against France in May 2018, but was then ommitted from the squad to tour Europe later in the year.
He has led Canterbury to three provincial titles in 2015-17 and has amassed 88 Super Rugby games, 38 since moving south to the Highlanders in 2016.
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"Luke and Ben demand selection for us through the consistency of their performances week to week," says Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger.
"Both players have a great temperament for the game and provide us leadership, on and off the field.
"Having 'Lukey' up front and 'Bender' at the back provides us with a good balance of leadership on the park."
With Super Rugby teams required to rest All Blacks during the season, three of the five NZ teams have named co-captains to share the load.
Whitelock's older brother, Sam, is Crusaders captain.
"When I cam down here in 2015, I just wanted to fit in and play good rugby," says Luke Whitelock. "I never expected to be a co-captain.
"When I think of some of the players who have captained this team in the past, like Anton Oliver and Nasi Manu, it's pretty humbling to be given the opportunity."
Join us at 7:30pm Friday for live updates of the Highlanders vs Chiefs at Hamilton.