From the time he shifted south to start his Super Rugby career, Lima Sopoaga brought a pragmatic approach to his professional sporting path.

He carried the Wellington spirit after being born and raised in the capital and could continue to play rugby within the comfort zones of his precinct or pack his swag to test his talents in the wider reaches of the sport.

Shifting was daunting for the reserved teenager but an offer from Jamie Joseph to join the Highlanders squad in 2011 as back-up to Colin Slade was the chance to expand his rugby tuition and test his skills against the best in the southern hemisphere.

As you'd expect, Joseph did more of the talking than his rookie five-eighths at the annual launch of that Super Rugby series. Interviewing Sopoaga produced the usual careful answers you'd expect from a young man but Joseph mentioned there was a steel behind the shyness and the sort of grit which would fit in well with the southern franchise.


Those qualities pushed Sopoaga into the All Black squad in 2015 and he made a remarkable test debut against the Springboks at Ellis Park.

The calibre of his teammates, injuries and other circumstances have restricted Sopoaga's time in the black jersey but he has played 16 tests and was backup to Beauden Barrett in the most recent tour to Europe.

We don't know how events have played out for Sopoaga, who has counselled him and what persuaded him but it seems he's made another pragmatic decision to move his young family and career to Wasps after one final campaign with the Highlanders.

There'll be some who will find it strange that someone in the early phases of an All Black life should pass up those chances and a tilt at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan to play club rugby in Europe.

There'll be others who'll point to Beauden Barrett and younger brother Jordie, Damian McKenzie, and Richie Mo'unga and nod their heads at the sense behind Sopoaga's move. He's assessed his future in New Zealand among the rising talent against the chance of a new chapter and financial rewards in Europe.

Sopoaga always presented himself as someone whose unruffled temperament has been his strongest weapon out on the footy field and that composure has shone through his goal-kicking precision and team direction for the Highlanders.

Those qualities are gold for any side and Wasps have opened their coffers to ensure they have a strong professional for the crucial No10 duties. Sopoaga joins other recent All Black five eighths Slade, Tom Taylor and Aaron Cruden who have farewelled their international life to move north of the equator.

Sopoaga will be 27 next month. His Wasps investment will help nail down his family's future and if he stays healthy, the chance of further profitable contracts.

His All Black status will remain but there were no guarantees about the future and in particular the reduced numbers and versatile players wanted for a 2019 World Cup squad. From this perspective Sopoaga has not been impatient, he's been remarkably savvy.