Fekitoa’s commitment to New Zealand is a major coup for both New Zealand rugby and the Highlanders and he joins a growing list of current All Blacks who have recommitted to New Zealand Rugby beyond this year.
He was one of only four players to play in all 17 Highlanders’ games last year staking his claim on the number 13 jersey early with his eye-catching performance in the opening round of the 2014 Investec Super Rugby Competition against his old team, the Blues. He was awarded the Sky TV Fan “Try of the Year” at the 2014 Steinlager Rugby Awards for his 50-metre effort against the Sharks in Durban, where he powered his way through numerous defenders to score under the posts. His outstanding Super Rugby form saw him picked for the All Blacks and he played eight Tests in his debut year, including six starts.
Fekitoa said: “I’m so grateful that I’ve been given the opportunity to re-sign with the Highlanders and New Zealand Rugby. I’m really excited to learn and play as much rugby as I can to become a better rugby player. I know opportunities like this don’t come around very often so I’m very grateful and ready for the challenge.”
Highlanders’ Head Coach Jamie Joseph commented that he was delighted that Malakai had re-signed and considered him a key member of the Highlanders’ backline that also includes All Blacks Aaron and Ben Smith.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen added: “It’s great to see young, talented players like Malakai committing themselves to New Zealand rugby. He made an impressive start to his international career last year and we look forward to watching him develop further this year.”
Highlanders’ Assistant Coach, Tony Brown said the re-signing of Fekitoa was fantastic news: “He is an exciting, young player and a hard-working team man. He works on developing his game and has incredibly high expectations of himself, he’s a true professional. We are delighted that he’s signed out to 2017.”
Highlanders’ General Manager Roger Clark, said: “Getting Malakai’s signature means a great deal to the Highlanders, and his many fans. He is an exciting player who has the potential, in my view, to be one of our greatest players. Obviously he had a lot of options to choose from so his commitment to the Highlanders is significant.”
22-year-old Malakai Fekitoa has now played eight Tests for the All Blacks since making his debut in June 2014 (scoring two tries against South Africa and Australia) and 17 games for the Highlanders in his first season as a full contract Super Rugby player. Fekitoa burst on the scene as an 18 year old at the National Sevens Tournament in 2011 where he was selected as the Player of the Tournament by All Blacks Sevens Coach Sir Gordon Tietjens.