Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph is looking forward to a new challenge in his career after agreeing to replace Eddie Jones as Japan coach.
Joseph has led the Highlanders for the past five Super Rugby seasons and guided them to the title last year as they beat Hurricanes 21-14 in the final.
He will continue in his role with the franchise until the end of the 2016 season before moving to Japan – who he represented as a player – in early August at the latest to succeed Jones, who is now in charge of England.
"The decision to move on from the Highlanders was the toughest decision I have ever had to make in my coaching career," said the 46-year-old.
"The club, the players and the people I have worked with over the last five years mean a great deal to me and the thought of that coming to an end is tough.
"I take great pride in what this club and all the people within it have been able to achieve in a relatively short time. I will always be extremely grateful for the opportunity to have been involved with the club and, no matter which teams I am coaching in the future, the Highlanders will always hold a special place in my heart.
"In a coaching career though you have to keep looking for the next challenge, so you can grow and get better as a coach; for me the challenge of the next few years with Japan is what I need to keep moving forward.
"International rugby is completely different from coaching at Super Rugby level and brings with it a whole new set of challenges which I am keen to tackle.
"While I am looking forward to Japan, for now my focus is still with the Highlanders and ensuring we can build on last year's success."