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Highlanders sign former All Blacks Sevens speedster among haul of young talent

By Ned Lester
Caleb Tangitau of New Zealand dives to score his try during the World Rugby U20 Championship 2023, 5th Place semi final match between New Zealand and Australia at Athlone Sports Stadium on July 9, 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

The Highlanders are stocking up on even more promising young players, with five signings announced ahead of the 2025 Super Rugby Pacific season.

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After signing former champion head coach Jamie Joseph to a Head of Rugby role that manages player recruitment and retention, the club have been pulling off some major coups by finding youngsters with promise who are surplus to their club’s requirements.

Last season, major pulls in the form of Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens and Tanielu Tele’a made an immediate impact for the southern club, while Jospeh’s activity around agents and New Zealand Rugby saw the Highlanders secure the services of the likes of Timoci Tavatavanawai, Rhys Patchell and Mitchell Dunshea.

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For 2025, the former Japan head coach has managed to land five strong talents, the oldest of which is just 23 years of age.

Caleb Tangitau may be the biggest name on the list, with the Blues outside back having enjoyed strong seasons with the All Blacks Sevens and the New Zealand U20s in recent years.

Utility forward Will Stoddart is one of the two re-signings on the list, a 20-year-old Southlander who debuted for the club in 2024 and is a graduate of the Highlanders High Performance Programme.

Hooker Soane Vikena is the oldest of the recruits at 23, boasting four years of Super Rugby experience with the 2024 champion Blues.

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Loose forward Veveni Lasaqa joins from the Hurricanes, where the Fijian-born 22-year-old claimed his Super Rugby Pacific debut against the Reds during the 2024 season.

Current New Zealand U20 squad member Josh Whaanga is the second of the re-signings, a 20-year-old midfielder and fellow graduate of the Highlanders High-Performance Programme, whose brother, Josh, is also in the team.

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1 Comment
m
monty 10 days ago

It’s all about the future generations, a very smart but obvious move by Jamie joseph’s. It’s great to have coaching staff of his caliber back in nz.

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Tom 55 minutes ago
All Blacks snatch another tight victory from England at Eden Park

First up to any of the ABs fans who accused us of “bluster” pre-series for saying it would be a competitive - I'm glad it turned out to be an excellent series to which the ABs were deserving winners and I hope next time a side tours you'll be a little more humble. I loved the heart shown by the English boys and how they managed to contain the AB attack for large parts of the series. Was very disappointed by the lack of cohesion and ambition ball in hand, we looked after the ball poorly and hardly went 2 phases without kicking it away. We're not giving ourselves enough opportunity to put phases together and build pressure. The ambition shown in the 6N against Ireland and France seems to have gone and our players look very hesitant with ball in hand, we look much better when Marcus is taking the ball flat and boys are running hard at the line. So frustrating when we're starting to build pressure in the 22 we go back to the grubber kick then find ourselves back on the half way line 10 seconds later. We've shown great success with our box kicking game but we need to leave the flipping grubber kick in the locker room. Like the Marcus Smith hail Mary miss pass that went straight to Mark Telea, we seem to have no patience. Sometimes we just need to recycle the ball and go again. Loving seeing Maro back to his best and Fin Baxter really impressed, Alex Mitchell looks to be one of the most complete 9s in world rugby, great around the base and impeccable kicking. Congrats to the ABs, far more dangerous and skillful than England. We contained you for large swathes but to shut down that amount of pace and skill for 80 mins is nigh on impossible. Managed to find a way to win and instinctively grabbed the rare opportunities which came your way. Finding ways to win in two tight test matches will I'm sure be a great experience for your younger players. Beauden needs to be in the starting 15, what a worldie.

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