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Highlanders sign young quintet through 2026

Highlanders Super Rugby Pacific
Highlanders signings (from left) Will Stodart, Caleb Tangitau, Soana Vikena, Josh Whaanga and Veveni Lasaqa. PHOTOS: HIGHLANDERS

The Highlanders continue to build for the future with the confirmed signings of five talented young players.

Adding to the home-grown talents of Will Stodart and Josh Whaanga, joining the Highlanders in 2025 will be two more New Zealand Under-20s representatives in Caleb Tangitau and Soana Vikena, as well as the promising Fijian-born loose forward Veveni Lasaqa.


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All have signed two-year contracts until 26, except Whaanga, who has signed for three years until 2027.

Whaanga is a Balclutha-bred midfield back who was a member of the John McGlashan College 1st XV team that won the South Island competition and went on to the Top Four 1st XV competition for the first time ever in 2022.

Younger brother of Highlander Matt Whaanga, Josh was awarded a national development contract in 2024 and played in the Super Rugby pre-season game against Moana Pasifika in Queenstown alongside his brother.

Whaanga went on to captain the Highlanders U-20 team in 2024 and was unlucky to miss selection for the New Zealand U-20s. Josh has been a member of the Highlanders High-Performance Programme and plays for Otago in the NPC.

Stodart is a 20-year-old loose forward, who is originally from Southland but plays for Otago in the NPC. In 2023 he was named in the New Zealand Under-20s and made his NPC debut for Otago as a 19-year-old.

Stodart has come through the Highlanders High Performance Programme and was originally included in the wider training group for the 2024 Super Rugby season but was elevated to a full contract squad member in December 2023.

Tangitau joins the Highlanders with extensive experience for a young player having represented the All Blacks Sevens team at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the New Zealand Under-20s against the Junior Wallabies in 2023 and more recently playing for the Blues in Super Rugby Pacific.

Lasaqa was born in Lautoka, Fiji but moved to New Zealand to attend Tauranga Boys College. He has played for Bay of Plenty in the National Provincial Championship since 2021 and was called into the Hurricanes squad early in 2024. 

Vikena is an energetic hooker, with strong open-field running, excellent tackling and accurate line-out throwing. He was selected in both the 2020 and 2021 NZ U-20 teams and made his Super Rugby debut off the bench for the Blues against the Crusaders in 2021.


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