Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson has named Sam Whitelock as his 2017 captain, saying he was a natural choice to succeed Kieran Read.
The lock has been with the Crusaders since 2010, the same year he made his Test debut, and Robertson had no hesitation in appointing him.
"Sam captained the team at the beginning of last season, until Kieran Read's return. But this year we want him to fully step into the role," the boss told the Crusaders website ahead of the upcoming campaign.
"Kieran has been an excellent captain, he is a courageous leader who the players admire and love, but this will allow Kieran to focus on just playing and enjoying himself in the Crusaders environment, rather than juggling the responsibility of being both All Blacks and Crusaders captain. It will also allow Sam to really take ownership of this position and influence the team in his own way.
"Sam is a natural leader anyway in this group, so it will be an easy transition. He brings fantastic team spirit, has a huge amount of mana from his peers, and really leads the team culture through his actions. I know that he is going to be a superb captain and I am excited about working alongside him to help lead this team in a new direction in 2017."
The 28-year-old All Black is one of four Whitelock brothers to have represented the Crusaders, and his cousin Ben Funnell is also a current member of the squad. The Whitelock brothers and Funnell all moved south from Palmerston North to attend University in Canterbury and went on to play for the provincial side as well as the Crusaders. He has played 101 games for the Crusaders so far.
"When I think about the players who have previously captained the Crusaders, I feel honoured to be included in such company," said Whitelock.
"It is a big responsibility to continue the excellent leadership that this team has always had, but I am fortunate that there is a lot of experience and leadership already in this 2017 group so I know that I will be well supported. I am excited about the squad we have assembled for next year’s competition and I hope I can contribute to a really successful season."