All Blacks scrum-half Jimmy Cowan has been named as the captain of the Highlanders for the 2009 Super 14 season.
The surprise selection sees the number nine replace Craig Newby, who left at the end of last season to join Leicester, in the job with Jamie Mackintosh and Jason Shoemark installed as vice-captains.
The 26-year-old international, who was been involved in alcohol-related incidents in the past, is now Graham Henry's first-choice No.9.
And Cowan admitted he is delighted to take the Highlanders job for the 2009 campaign, becoming the first Southlander to lead the franchise.
"It is a huge honour and something I'm very proud of," he said, speaking to The Southland Times.
"It's been through a lot of hard work and grit. That was 2008, though, and now it's 2009; it's a new year. I've got to start again."
Meanwhile, Highlanders coach Glenn Moore is fully confident that his new leader on the field has put his unfortunate past issues behind him.
"We gave it a lot of careful consideration but underneath it all what we saw from him, with the way he dealt with those difficult times last year, was a lot of character. That is what we want (from the captain)," Moore said.
"He showed a lot of courage to bounce back like he did.
"I've spent quite a bit of time with him during the Air New Zealand Cup when he was back with Southland and he's made a major step forward. He's showed a lot of growth in his leadership."