Highlanders and Otago captain Josh Blackie has continued the exodus from New Zealand after agreeing a deal to play in Japan.
The 27-year-old flanker, who was handed the Highlanders captaincy at the start of the season, has played more than 55 Super 14 matches, 73 games for Otago and enjoyed stints with the Junior All Blacks and national sevens set-up, winning a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games last year.
Blackie’s announcement comes a week after Otago’s All Black prop Carl Hayman signed a deal to play for Guinness Premiership outfit Newcastle Falcons.
All Blacks Aaron Mauger, Chris Jack, Byron Kelleher, Hayman and Sam Tuitupou are also heading overseas.
“I’ve certainly enjoyed my time with Otago and the Highlanders and I’ll cherish the memories and the people from my career in Dunedin. But this was an opportunity too good to turn down,” said Blackie.
Otago Rugby Football Union chief executive Russell Gray added: “He’ll be missed, that’s for sure, but as I’ve said before, players going overseas to continue their careers is a fact of modern rugby life.
“Neither we nor even the New Zealand union can hope to compete against offers from some overseas clubs.”