Highlanders and Tasman lock Joe Wheeler has signed with Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath for the 2016-17 Top League season.

He will travel to Japan immediately after the conclusion of Super Rugby, meaning he will not play for Tasman in this seasons Mitre 10 Cup.

The Highlanders veteran, who first played for the current Super Rugby champions in 2013 after signing from the Crusaders, is off contract with the side at the end of this campaign.

Suntory Sungoliath have been Japanese champions on three different occasions, with their last title coming in the 2012-13 season, where they defeated Toshiba Brave Lupus 19-3 in the final.