Loose forward Michael Leitch will be back in Chiefs colours after signing to return for the 2016 Super Rugby season.
The Japanese national team captain has been impressive for the Chiefs this season, earning the Rookie of the Year award as voted for by the Hamilton-based franchise's players.
“Michael has made a huge impression in his debut season,” said Chiefs coach Dave Rennie.
“He is a top man, very professional and has been a real positive influence on our younger players. We appreciate Michael’s desire and commitment to return to the Chiefs andwe are rapt that he will be back for us.”
The 26 year-old has played 13 matches for the Chiefs this season after making his Super Rugby debut against the Stormers in Cape Town, which he describes as one of the highlights in his rugby career.
“I have really enjoyed my time at the Chiefs," said Leitch.
"I feel I am in the best place in the world to enhance my rugby. I am surrounded by the best players, coaches and training environment and I want to make the most of the opportunities I have been given.”
“I am grateful to my club Toshiba and my national team for working with me to make this happen.”
New Zealand-born Leitch has played 38 matches for Japan and has also captained the Japanese side at the Junior World Championship in 2008.
He plays for the Toshiba Brave Lupus Club in the Top League in Japan and will return to the Chiefs early next year following his Rugby World Cup and Toshiba commitments.