Former Highlanders head coach Aaron Mauger will take the reins for Moana Pasifika for next year's new Super Rugby Pacific.
The former All Blacks midfielder has signed a three-year deal to become the expansion franchise's new head coach for their historic debut Super Rugby season, which begins in February.
The 40-year-old has been part of developing the club's strong Pasifika ethos, having been assistant coach for their first-ever match against the Māori All Blacks in November 2020.
Mauger - who's of Samoan, Tahitian and Cook Islands descent - calls his appointment a "privilege" and an opportunity to further develop his connection to his heritage.
"This is a very special time for Pasifika people and Pasifika rugby," Mauger says. "I loved my experience with the team that played against the Māori All Blacks last year, so to be appointed head coach is a real privilege for me both as a rugby coach and as a Pasifika man.
"I have always been grounded by my heritage, but in recent years I have really delved deep into my lineage and I am really enjoying the journey of discovery.
"It's an honour to work alongside the likes of Sir Bryan Williams and Sir Michael Jones to bring the Moana vision to life. These men are absolute legends who have carved the path for all Pasifika sportsmen and women over the last 50 years."
The playing squad and rest of the coaching team will be announced "very soon, Mauger adds.
Moana Pasifika Trust chairman Sir Michael Jones welcomed Mauger’s call-up as an important milestone in Moana Pasifika's young journey.
"Aaron has had an outstanding playing career and coached at Super Rugby level," says Sir Michael.
"He knows the grit and guts it takes to succeed which is just what we need to hit the ground running come competition time."
in 2013, Mauger began his coaching career as an assistant with the Crusaders, before taking up a head coach role with England's Leicester Tigers.
He worked as an assistant with Manu Samoa in 2017, then signed on as head coach of the Highlanders, where he was axed after three seasons last year.
Fiji Drua will also make their Supr Rugby debut in the revamped competition, alongside five teams from each of Australia and New Zealand.