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Sopoaga signs for another three years

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Lynn McConnell     17 Nov 2015     Getty Images

Sopoaga, 24, is one game short of 50 appearances for the Investec Super Rugby champions, and will be a contender for Dan Carter's vacated place in the All Blacks line-up this year.

Sopoaga is in England this week to play for the Barbarians.

With his signing the Highlanders have retained him and dynamic halfback partner Aaron Smith for three more seasons.

Sopoaga said: "I'm so grateful for the opportunity to sign to the Highlanders until 2018.

"I owe a lot to the coaching staff and the organisation for sticking by me and allowing me to develop, not only as a player but as a person.

"I wouldn't be where I am today without the great team culture, team-mates, coaches and medical staff. I'm looking forward to my future with the club," he said.

And where he is today, is competing for the Super Rugby Player of the Year for 2015 with Smith at the Steinlager Awards next month.

Sopoaga had a big year in 2015, making his All Blacks debut and producing an outstanding performance to help beat the Springboks on Ellis Park.

He set a record of 191 points, the most in a season by a Highlander, and holds second place on the all-time Highlanders points scoring list with 453 points, and is headed only by the side's assistant coach Tony Brown who scored 857 points.

Highlanders' coach Jamie Joseph said: "Lima has worked really hard in the past few seasons to develop his game, he has grown into a skilful first five and become an important member of our team.

"What's more exciting is that I don't think he has achieved his full potential yet and is only going to get better."

New Zealand Rugby's general manager of rugby Neil Sorensen said: "This is just awesome news for Highlanders fans.

"Lima is a class act, and has shown in both the All Blacks and Highlanders' jerseys that he has some fantastic skills. It's exciting to think that we're just scratching the surface of what this young man can deliver."