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3 July 2024

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. All are signed on two-year contracts (2025-26) except Whaanga who has signed for three years (2025-27).


 Veveni Lasaqa

22 years

186cm / 101kg

Loose Forward


2021- Bay Of Plenty (NPC)

2024 Hurricanes (Super Rugby debut 2024 v Reds)


Veveni 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 competition since 2021 and was called into the Hurricanes squad early in the 2024 season. 




Will Stodart 

20 years

197cm / 116kg

Loose Forward/Lock


2023- Otago Rugby (NPC)

2023 New Zealand U20s

2024- Highlanders (Super Rugby Debut 2024 v Rebels) 


Will Stodart is a 20-year-old loose forward who is originally from Southland but plays for Otago in the NPC competition. 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.

Caleb Tangitau 

21 years

188cm / 98kg



2022 New Zealand Sevens Team (2022 Commonwealth Games Birmingham and 2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens)

2023 New Zealand Under 20s

2023-24 Blues (Super Rugby debut 2023 v Rebels)

2023- Auckland Rugby (NPC)


Caleb 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 U20s against the Junior Wallabies in 2023 and more recently playing for the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific grand finalists, the Blues


Soane Vikena 


2020 Blues Under 20s and Blues Development Player of the Year

2020-21 New Zealand Under 20s

2021-22 Auckland Rugby (NPC)

2021-24 Blues (Super Rugby debut 2021 v Crusaders)


Soane is an energetic hooker with strong open-field runner, excellent tackling and an accurate line-out thrower. Vikena was selected in both the 2020 and 2021 New Zealand Under 20 teams and made his Super Rugby debut off the bench against the Crusaders in Christchurch during Round Nine of the Super Rugby Aotearoa 2021 season for the Blues where he has been since 2021.

Josh Whaanga 

20 years

1.93cm / 98kg

Midfield Back


2023 Otago (NPC)

2024 New Zealand U20s (World Championship)

2024 Highlanders Under 20s (Captain)


Josh Whaanga is a Balclutha-bred mid-field back who was a member of the John McGlashan College First XV team that won the South Island competition and went on to the Top Four First 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. He went on to Captain the Highlander’s U20 team in 2024 and was unlucky to miss selection for the New Zealand Under 20s.

Josh has been a member of the Highlanders High-Performance Programme and plays for Otago in NPC.





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