108-test All Black lock Samuel Whitelock has signed an extension to his contract with NZ Rugby and looks set to finish his career in New Zealand. However, it comes with a clause that will see Whitelock given a sabbatical next year that will see him play for Panasonic in the Japanese Top League.
This means that he will not play Super Rugby for the Crusaders next season.
This morning, Whitelock said, “I’m grateful to New Zealand Rugby, the Crusaders and Canterbury Rugby for their support of myself and my family in making this decision, and I’m really proud to commit to these teams for the next four years.
“Ultimately, this decision allows me to take some time with my family to experience a new rugby environment in Japan, before coming back refreshed and ready for the remainder of 2020 and beyond. I’m pleased there is clarity around my playing future, so I can focus on the remainder of this 2019 season with the Crusaders.”
The Whitelock whānau have played a large role in New Zealand rugby over the last decade.
Brothers George and Luke have both been All Blacks, and Luke’s promotion to captain in last year’s game against Japan makes him and Samuel the first ever set of brothers to lead the team in a test match.
Another brother, Adam, also played Super Rugby and represented the All Black Sevens.
NZR CEO Steve Tew said, “This is a major re-signing for us and we’re absolutely delighted that Sam has chosen to sign a four-year deal. He’s a world-class player, an All Blacks Centurion, the most capped All Blacks lock of all time and he carries immense mana.”