Pari Pari Parkinson, the 203cm, 130kg lock, has re-signed for another year until the end of the 2022 campaign, following the signature of halfback Folau Fakatava announced last week.
“It’s been a frustrating few years in a way, with injuries but I am hopeful with the body now in good shape that I can get some good performances under my belt and push on from here,” the 24-year-old said in a statement.
“I had options to move on but in the end I believe I will get the best out of myself by staying with the Highlanders.
“There is a lot I want to achieve over the next few seasons and this is the right team and place to do it from.”
The Māori All Blacks giant is set to play his first game of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season against the Hurricanes in Dunedin on Friday.
Parkinson got through 25-30 minutes for the Highlanders Bravehearts in their loss to the Crusaders Development XV two Saturdays ago, an earlier return than the Highlanders were anticipating.
Highlanders assistant coach Clarke Dermody said Parkinson had undergone an ankle “reconstruction” to sort out an issue that had dogged him for years.
“He just adds a different element to our forward pack," Dermody said on Monday.
“He's a big human. We'll just be taking it easy with him because of how long he has had off and his return to play. It was a full reconstruction, so it was a pretty big surgery.
“He's done well to get back to where he is now.
“He's been held back due to the nature of his return, and it's a big frame to be holding weight through. But he's eager to get back out there.”
Parkinson's last game was against the Hurricanes in the final fixture of Super Rugby Aotearoa 2020.
He missed the subsequent Mitre 10 Cup campaign for Tasman but the hope is the ankle surgery has set him up to realise his potential in the coming years.
“Pari Pari has so much potential within him, I feel like he is ready to fire now and over the next few seasons, if he can stay injury free, he could really dominate his position,” head coach Tony Brown said in a statement.
“He is big, athletic and an aggressive ball carrier so he has all he needs to be a world class player.”
Parkinson, prop Ayden Johnstone and Japanese test start Kazuki Himeno are all available for the Highlanders against the Hurricanes.
However, Jona Nareki and Liam Squire are considered doubtful for the game, particularly the big No 6.
”Liam's still getting managed back from his load stuff, his past injuries,” Dermody said. “Just the nature of it, it's week to week.
”We'll see how he comes up at the start of every week.
”He's a guy we would love to be involved every week but it's just unfortunate it's not the case.”
Nareki took a nasty blow to the hip in the loss to the Blues in round three in Auckland and Dermody said the electric wing was still uncomfortable.
“He's still a bit sore," Dermody said. “There's not much muscle going on where he got hit so he's getting through the week. We'll say that.”
The Highlanders will name their team to face the Hurricanes at 12.30pm on Wednesday.