Chiefs hooker Hika Elliot's new lease on rugby life has prompted him to sign for a further two years with New Zealand Rugby.
Elliot, 29, confirmed an extended contract days out from what will his 100th Super Rugby appearance, in Saturday's qualifying final against the Highlanders. The three-Test All Black says he is enjoying his rugby more than ever this year, having overcome a severe neck injury which threatened his career in late 2013.
After surgery he spent most of last year recovering before playing a handful of Heartland Championship games for Poverty Bay. He was thrown a lifeline by the Chiefs, for whom he started in 14 of 16 regular season games and pushed his claims for an All Blacks recall.
"I have unfinished business in New Zealand. The enjoyment of my rugby has gone up another level and I think that is because after my injury I have a new appreciation for how lucky I am to be in this sport," he said. "My body feels like it did when I was 20 years old."
Elliot's Tests were one-off affairs in 2008, 2010 and 2012. A Maori All Black regular and New Zealand age group captain, he played 12 games for the Hurricanes in 2008 before joining the Chiefs a year later.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie says Elliot's signature is a key one. "Hika is in the form of his life and is a highly influential part of our culture."